Ceasefire unlikely on Union Day without further talks, say both sides

A nationwide ceasefire deal between government and ethnic armed groups could not be signed on Union Day (February 12) if the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) fail to hold the seventh round of ceasefire talks this month. 

Both sides said they expected to sign the ceasefire agreement on February 12 during a press conference after a ceasefire coordination meeting in December last year. Likewise, President Thein Sein said so during a meeting with leaders of the ethnic armed groups on January 5, who attended the Independence Day anniversary and the grand military review parade, said NCCT member colonel Khun Oakka. 

The representatives from both parties said they need to agree on the provisions of the ceasefire draft to be finalized. Whatever dates the ceasefire draft could be finalized; it will take about two weeks to make preparations, including the invitation of witnessing countries, in order to sing the agreement.

Khun Oakka also said that to be able to reach a ceasefire agreement, conflicting points in the ceasefire draft must be compromised while it is necessary to avoid ground military operations and offensives. 

In December’s meeting, UPWC and NCCT issued a joint statement saying that the seventh ceasefire coordination meeting will take place, but it is unlikely under current circumstances. 

Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, deputy leader (1) of NCCT, said the ceasefire meeting could be arranged in mid-January if no clashes occur between the government army and ethnic armed groups. 

However, clashes broke out between government troops and Kachin Independence Army in the townships of Kutkhai and Tamoenye, northern Shan State, on January 13 and 14. Again on January 15, clashes occurred in Phakant, Kachin State. 

Some comment that both parties’ failure to thwart unnecessary clashes during the ceasefire effort period poses a barrier to further talks. 

In the ceasefire draft, only a few points remain to be compromised as to whether they should be included in the agreement. The points reportedly include which armed groups will sign the ceasefire accord, the number of witnessing countries, military discipline and ethics to be followed by both sides and ceasefire monitoring.  

NCCT, which is formed with ethnic armed groups, plans to hold a meeting in Chiang Mai of Thailand between January 19 and 21 to set the date for the seventh round of ceasefire talks. 

Officials from Myanmar Peace Centre also plan to meet with NCCT leaders around January 20.