Two Myanmar groups sign cease-fire deal
Two armed ethnic groups signed a cease-fire in Myanmar yesterday 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 (NMSP) and Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) inked the National Ceasefire Agreement in the capital Naypyidaw, joining eight other militias who had signed before Aung San Suu Kyi took office.
Global attention has focused on the plight of some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims forced out of western Myanmar into Bangladesh by a violent military campaign.
But the crisis in Rakhine state is just one of some two dozen conflicts festering around the country’s borderlands, where ethnic rebels have for decades fought the state for more autonomy.
Suu Kyi, whose official title is State Counsellor, 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 drug-producing ethnic areas still riven by unrest that has displaced tens of thousands.
However Suu Kyi welcomed the national cease-fire agreement at a colorful signing ceremony attended by government officials, the army chief 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.
Yesterday’s signatories have not actively clashed with the army for some time but were part of a bloc of powerful rebel armies that resisted signing the ceasefire pact under the former military-backed government.