By RICHARD SARGENT & HLA-HLA HTAY | AFP
NAY PYI TAW — Two ethnic armed groups signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on Tuesday in a move which the government hopes will revive a flagging peace process dogged by continuing fighting and widespread distrust of the army.
The New Mon State Party and Lahu Democratic Union inked the NCA in Nay Pyi Taw, joining eight other groups who had signed before State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi took office.
Aung San Suu Kyi made peace her top priority when her civilian administration took office in 2016 to end five decades of military domination.
But there has been little to show for the effort, with swathes of the country still riven by unrest that has displaced tens of thousands.
However Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed the NCA at Tuesday’s colourful signing ceremony attended by government officials, the Tatmadaw chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and ethnic representatives in traditional clothes. It was the key to unlocking national unity, she said.
She conceded that the “light of peace… cannot cover the whole country”, adding “our country is facing a lot of pressure and criticism from the international community” — an apparent reference to the outcry over the Rohingya refugee exodus.
Tuesday’s signatories have not actively clashed with the army for some time but were part of a bloc of ethnic armed groups that resisted signing the ceasefire pact under the former military-backed government.
“We believe in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi but we’ll have to see what happens on the road ahead, because the government and the military are not very united,” LDU chairman Kya Khun Sar told AFP before the signing.