Myanmar has signed a peace deal formally called the Nationwide Cease-fire Agreement,
with armed rebel groups. The government has signed a ceasefire deal with eight armed ethnic groups. The signing ceremony in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, was the culmination of two years of peace talks.
The groups that signed the agreement will be taken off the country’s terrorism lists and allowed development and investment in areas desperately in need after years of isolation. It also means the rebel armies’ members can now move freely across the country and take part in politics.
But the most active seven rebel groups have stayed out of the deal. Myanmar has been engaged in an armed conflict with various ethnic rebel groups seeking greater autonomy since independence from the British in 1948.
Thein Sein, the president, led the ceremony in the capital, Naypyitaw, aimed at ending conflicts with multiple ethnic factions demanding autonomy in northern, resource-rich areas of the country.
The accord will be forwarded to the parliament for approval and the final agreement to be drawn within the next couple of months.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the signing of a ceasefire agreement in Myanmar as “a milestone” and expressed his hope that the new government formed after next month’s elections will keep moving forward along the present path of negotiations.
Read: New Security Council Members Elected
But the deal, signed in the capital, Naypyidaw, leaves many questions unanswered, including how the balance of power between the central government and the ethnic regions will be determined. It does not require the ethnic groups to disarm.
Perhaps most significant, the deal principally covers ethnic groups along the border with Thailand, but not the long stretch of territory bordering China. The ethnic groups with the two largest militias and tens of thousands of soldiers — the Kachin and the Wa — did not sign the agreement.
Ethnic minorities in Myanmar complain of discrimination and a lack of services in border regions compared with the dominant Bamar population, who are mostly Buddhists. Although the country was named Burma after the main ethnic group, up to 40% of modern-day Myanmar consists of minority populations.
When Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948, many of these groups took up arms. Parts of the country are still controlled by rebels, although active warfare ebbs and flows.
The key rebel armies that control the most territory and arms – the Kachin Independence Army, Shan State Army and United Wa State Army – refused to sign the agreement.
In Kachin state, more than 100,000 people have been displaced following the collapse of a 17-year peace deal in 2011.
After half a century of military rule, Myanmar promised reforms in 2011 that were welcomed internationally. The army handed power to a civilian government, although it was still headed by military figures.
Read: Egypt Approves Anti-Terrorism Law
Representatives from the United Nations, China, India and the US witnessed the signing of agreement. The opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party did not attend.
The deal comes during a time of increased nervousness over the upcoming elections. Earlier this week, the election commission suggested the 8 November date should be postponed, leading to fears of military interference. In 1990, the army ignored a huge election victory by the NLD and put the party’s leaders in prison.
IMPLICATIONS ON INDIA
The signing of the ceasefire agreement could even impact on India’s own insurgency in the region abutting Myanmar. India is in the midst of finalising the Naga peace accord with the main stakeholders, whose framework agreement was signed at the Prime Minister’s residence recently.
It was felt that the signing created a “momentum” which will create an atmosphere that will show the benefits of being part of a system which can create greater prosperity.
With a clear relationship between insecurity and underdevelopment, north-east insurgency groups will certainly be looking at developments across the border and will perhaps take a leaf out of the book in Myanmar’s efforts, source
From India’s perspective, the role of National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang armed group in the ceasefire negotiations is not totally clear, as they had off and on being part of the talks. They had not been invited to the initial 2013 summit of 17 armed groups which had Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT).
NSCN-K had taken part in a meeting in September, but were not part of the signing of agreement in Nya Pyi Taw.
However with this agreement not abrogating previous ceasefires, Myanmar government’s 2012 pact to end hostilities with NSCN-K still stands. After the ambush on Indian army in June, India has been courting the Myanmar government to keep NSCN-K at a distance and even put some pressure.
India was able to undertake some operation on NSCN-K camps, which as per official version, were on the India-Myanmar border. Last week, NSCN-K camps were reportedly demolished, which led the armed group to give a statement criticizing the Myanmar army.