By LAWI WENG
A northern Shan rebel armed group, the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), says they may sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) this year if necessary to work with the Myanmar government towards political reform.
SSPP leaders held a meeting from Feb. 4-18 at their headquarters in Wang Hai, northern Shan State, to discuss the possibility of signing the NCA and finding compromises with the Myanmar government.
“If we need to sign [the NCA] for our group, we will do it. But first we want to discuss it with our members of our alliance,” said SSPP Colonel Sai Su. The NCA was first signed in October 2015.
Col. Sai Su also said that if the government and the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, are wise, they will choose to compromise with the ethnic armed group coalition known as the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) and all of its members will sign the NCA.
The FPNCC includes the SSPP, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Mong La’s National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA).
According to the SSPP, the FPNCC does not have a common stand on signing the NCA and the groups need more time to discuss it.
Col. Sai Su said that if the SSPP signs the NCA, they will explain the decision to ethnic Shan people.
The SSPP was a member of the now-defunct United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), which worked to draft the NCA, but resigned from the group in 2017. The SSPP then joined the FPNCC, which continues to negotiate with the Myanmar government regarding the NCA.
Col. Sai Su said the SSPP has learned about problems with the NCA from ethnic armed groups who signed the agreement. The Shan colonel said the Myanmar army has taken advantage of the NCA to occupy territory that belongs to ethnic armed groups.
As fighting has broken out in territories of NCA signatories, the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups have blamed one another. The Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JCM), the body established to monitor NCA signatories’ implementation of the ceasefire, has little power to control the Myanmar army or stop the fighting.
“There should be an organization which has the power to influence the Myanmar army and the ethnic armed groups that is a member of the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee, so the organization could point out when the Myanmar army or ethnic armed groups have violated the agreement,” said Col Sai Su.
The SSPP pushed for the NCA to include terms that would establish such a body. As part of the FPNCC, the group pushed for China to be included in the JMC, but the Myanmar army and the government rejected the idea.
According to the SSPP, Myanmar also needs to reform the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. The SSPP has suggested that if the National League for Democracy government, the Union Solidarity and Development Party and the military can compromise and amend the constitution, the country will be closer to real political reform.
“They could make a compromise if they truly wish to have real political reform in the country,” said Col. Sai Su. “We do not have to tell them what our ethnic groups need, as they understand already that we need equal rights. Once they compromise among themselves, then they can deal with our ethnic groups and look at how to build a federal system.”