Nationwide ceasefire still within reach: Chin leader


    A leader of the Chin National Front (CNF) is calling on both sides of the peace talks between armed ethnic groups and the Union government to remove obstacles hindering their movement towards a nationwide ceasefire deal.

    Dr Shwe Khar, joint secretary general (2) of the CNF, pointed to an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion as a cause for the disagreements that saw last month’s negotiations – which had sparked optimism that a deal was near – unravel in acrimony.

    The six principles for a ceasefire laid down by the Tatmadaw, including adhering to the military-drafted Constitution of 2008, have been interpreted by armed ethnic groups as a tool for controlling them, Dr Shwe Khar said. He added that rumours that the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) – an alliance of armed ethnic groups – plans to set up a federal army and delay the ceasefire deal should be publicly rejected by the council. “Ethnic groups need to deny such ‘demands’,” he said.

    The ethnic peace negotiators who comprise the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team include members of the council and representatives of other ethnic groups. The UNFC has established its own set of policies for signing a nationwide ceasefire deal with the government’s Union Peace-working Committee.

    Shwe Khar said armed ethnic groups were also concerned about the role Parliament would play in the ceasefire’s acceptance. They are worried that if they sign an agreement it might subsequently be amended by the Parliament, which is controlled by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. One-quarter of all seats in the Parliament are also allotted to the military. “Tatmadaw (armed forces) submitted six principles of the commander-in-chief of Defence Services, “Ethnic groups fear that Parliament may cancel agreed upon points,” Shwe Khar said, adding that it would be helpful for members of the armed ethnic groups to learn more about parliamentary rules and regulations.

    He said it was critical for the military and the Union government to reconsider the concerns of armed ethnic. If both sides vow to succeed in agreeing on a nationwide ceasefire, the disagreements will be overcome, Shwe Khar said.