The news team interviewed participants at the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) by the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Lahu Democratic Union (LDU).
Colonel Wunna Aung, Secretary (1) of Joint Monitoring Committee
We will be monitoring if organisations are following the military rules and regulations, as well as the NCA rules. We might send inspection teams for that, but our main goal is to reduce difficulties for everyone.
U Yar Htep, Shan State Minister for Lahu Ethnic Affairs
Our region still lacks good healthcare, education and basic infrastructure, but by cooperating with the union government, we hope to provide better opportunities to the ethnic people. Peace is crucial for the country’s development and to achieve that, firstly, all ethnic groups must be united, and secondly, all ethnic groups must have mutual respect. If we can achieve that, then we can develop each region, state and the nation.
U Khin Zaw Oo, Secretary of Peace Commission
On 15 October 2015, the union government and eight ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, and now, after numerous meetings, we have two additional signatories to the NCA. In southern Myanmar, there is Kayin State, Mon State and Taninthayi Region, and of the three, only Mon State had not signed the NCA and was not involved in the peace effort and development processes. However, now that the New Mon State Party has signed the NCA, we can assume that all of lower Myanmar is on the right path towards lasting peace. We have not closed our doors to anyone for peace talks. There have been unofficial meetings with EAOs, but we cannot officially announce anything yet.
Naing Aung Mangae, NMSP’s Executive Committee Member
The next step after the NCA, is holding a national political dialogue, and we are committed to it. There are advantages, as well as disadvantages, in holding this. The disadvantage is that not all EAOs are on board yet; however, the advantage is that signing the NCA allows us to participate in political dialogues. The NMSP alone cannot bring about change, so we are ready to work together with everyone to create the Federal Republic.
Dr. Tu Jar, Kachin State Democracy Party
Civil war is a political problem that needs a political solution, and everyone knows this. Especially in 2010, during President U Thein Sein’s administration, people have come to accept this and have engaged in talks, as opposed to using force. Eventually, this led to the forming of the NCA and holding of discussions based on it. Not all EAOs have signed the NCA, because there are some points in it that they want to amend. During the meetings leading up to the NCA, we can at least achieve a temporary ceasefire scenario, which may help us build trust in each other. The delegation for political negotiations (DPN) and the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre held discussions and came up with eight points to be added to the NCA. The NMSP and LDU were satisfied with that, and they have signed the NCA, so I think other EAOs can find ways to ask for something that will work for them.
Narvis Bon, LDU Executive Committee Member
We are proud to have signed the NCA, and we hope to join forces with the people to develop Lahu. Signing the NCA will allow us to participate in political dialogues, and at the grassroots level, we will engage in discussions with the public. I am happy to see everyone welcoming us so eagerly. I want to tell the remaining non-signatories to conduct negotiations and join us together in the peace process.
Saw Sein Win, Member of Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC); Democratic Karen Buddhist Army
I think our Kayin people have gained increased travel and job opportunities. I hope the remaining EAOs will join us quickly in building our nation.
U Thein Tun, Member of UPDJC (National Unity Party)
We have 10 signatories to the NCA now, and I urge the remaining EAOs to join the NCA as soon as possible. It is the wish of all ethnic groups. If all of us sign the NCA and the civil war ends, then we can engage in a political dialogue, and if we are all united in our mission, then we can establish a federal democratic system.
U Nyo Ohn Myint, Secretary of Centre for Peace and Reconciliation
After eight meetings for the NCA under the current administration, the NMSP said they will sign the NCA if the Tatmadaw offers some sort of agreement; so, I assume the commander-in-chief made an agreement with Chairperson Nai Htaw Mon, and the other NMSP leaders accepted it. This is just my speculation. There may be additional signatories in the future. It takes some two to three months for the EAOs and the union government to convene, and misunderstandings can happen during that waiting period. However, today’s signing was possible because there was trust.
U Ko Ko Gyi,
88 generation Peace and Open Society
The signing of the NCA today shows the amount of trust that has been built, and I think there should be more meetings with the non-signatories to build trust in them too. I think there should be continuous interaction with them, even if it is not on official grounds, so that we can become more intimate with each other. The JMC (joint monitoring committee) was established to monitor the NCA, and the UPDJC was formed for political development. They are like the left and right feet. One of the pair monitors the ceasefire based on political activity, and the other conducts political dialogue based on the ceasefire situation.
U Sai Kyaw Nyunt, Secretary of UPDJC
Two additional signatories may not seem to be a big deal, but change is significant regardless of the scale. The NCA is not the end goal. It is an agreement that acts as a synapse for us to conduct political and peace dialogues, so that we can build the federal state that we desire. I invite all the remaining EAOs to join the political dialogue, either by signing the NCA or by other possible means.
—Naing Lin Kyi, Aye Aye Thant, Mhwe Kyu Zin, Khin Su Su Hlaing
Photo: Htein Nan Naw, Hmway Thant