Government, ethnic armed groups sign agreement to build federal state

The governmental officials and ethnic armed groups meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on February 12. (Photo-EMG)

The Myanmar government and four ethnic armed groups signed an agreement to build a state based on democracy and a federal system yesterday in Nay Pyi Taw.

The four groups are the Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), Karen National Liberation Army and Shan State Restoration Council/Shan State Army.

The parties promised to work for freedom, equality, justice for all ethnic groups and toward the enactment of the historic Pinlon Agreement of 1947 to ensure the non-disintegration of the union, the non-disintegration of the national solidarity and the perpetuation of sovereignty. 

The signatories also designated a nationwide ceasefire treaty as the main objective of their political talks, and then to hold a political dialogue after signing the nationwide ceasefire plan. 

They also pledged to hold preliminary political talks before the 2015 general election and to refrain from armed skirmishes other actions that could damage the peace process.

President Thein Sein said: “The people expect us to sign it. We need to fulfil the people’s hope. We will continue to carry out our process to achieve peace. When we look at the view of the individual and organisations, they are eager to have peace. All want to achieve peace."

"We want peace and national reconciliation. It is our job. We have been discussing it for a long time. We are building mutual trust. Now leaders from both sides are shaking hands. The trust is built among higher ranks. But we need time to build trust between middle and lower ranks. Although the higher rank said not to fight, the fighting is still occurring as no mutual trust has been established in middle and lower ranks," the president said. 

"We have two objectives in stopping the fighting. One is to hold political dialogue. No one can guarantee a ceasefire completely. However, there is a negotiation team that can control the fighting. Ethnic minority communities, especially in the border areas, are suffering from the fighting," he said.

Saw Kual Htoo, General Secretary of KNU, said: “We will try to reach a nationwide ceasefire. We will seek a solution to the conflicts with political dialogue. We promised to implement the ceasefire agreement. There are so many groups in the talks. When the Pinlon Agreement was signed, only three or four groups signed. General Aung San from government and delegates from Shan, Chin and Kachin attended the Pinlon meeting. Now there are so many ethnic groups. Ethnic armed groups and ethnic parties are included. And then government, president and parliament are involved too. But the important thing is the promise. If they break the promise, the fighting will break out again.”

Hla Maung Shwe from the Myanmar Peace Centre said: “The signing was proposed by the ethnic leaders. It was not initiated by the government. Some organisations may have higher expectations. Twenty ministers and the president, two vice presidents, the lower house and upper house speakers and the chairperson of the election commission signed the agreement. Three lieutenant generals also signed the agreement. I understand this promise is a promise to people who want peace. It is not a bond. In my view, I think we should sign the agreement as we can continue to discuss peace.”

“I don’t blame the ethnic groups who haven’t signed the agreement yet. We have pledged to continue to reach our goal. It is not a bond, and it will not hold us back with promises. It is just a pledge,” he continued.