Army attacks could derail ceasefire: NCCT

Before a ceasefire can be signed on Union Day, February 12, attacks by the Myanmar armed forces must end, said Khun Okkar from the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT). 

The government’s Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) and the rebel groups’ NCCT agreed to hold nationwide ceasefire meetings in mid-January. Before that meeting, both parties will hold informal talks. 

Khun Okkar said: “There are 30 sections with seven chapters in the ceasefire draft. Out of them, three or four sections are unfinished. Additionally, the conditions on the frontline also need to be suitable for the ceasefire to be signed. Fighting cannot continue after signing the agreement. We need to stop all conflict before Union Day.”

He said that troops from ethnic groups were not causing problems for the ceasefire and the government and the military were responsible for the fighting. 

The NCCT and UPWC agreed in August to organise working teams to watch whether military ethics were obeyed but it had proved impractical on the ground, he said. The NCCT wants to enforce the teams’ duties in the ceasefire draft. 

The armed groups due to sign the ceasefire agreement are yet to be confirmed. The Arakan Army, Lahu Democratic Union, Wa National Organisation, Arakan National Council and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army have not held official talks with the government. 

Khun Okkar said: “There is one section in the draft which states that all groups must sign together. Otherwise, we won’t sign it. If some groups don’t sign then the government would lose prestige. The government has its own list of which groups have to sign. We also have one and that is one area of negotiation.”

Ethnic armed groups want observers from the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Norway, China, India and Thailand at the ceasefire signing ceremony.