US Commends Signing Of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in Burma

Despite its concerns about continuing fighting between the Burma Army and Shan and Kachin armed groups the United States released a statement praising the signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement between the government and eight armed groups.

The United States in a statement released on 15 October by its spokesperson, John Kirby said that the “signing of the text of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) by the government and eight ethnic armed groups is a critical first step in a long process of building a sustainable and just peace in Burma.”

Mr Kirby’s statement acknowledged that “some groups were not able to sign today, and we understand and respect their concerns. We welcome their commitment to continue discussions within their communities and with the government about the necessary conditions for signing at a future date, and we urge the government to engage constructively in a dialogue with these groups to pursue a more inclusive peace.”

Not all members of the armed groups were as optimistic as Mr Kirby about the government’s commitment to a constructive political dialogue with the ethnic armed groups. Major General Nerdah Bo Mya, head of the Karen National Defence Organization, in an exclusive interview with Karen News said that the government could not claim that it had signed a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement when as many as half of the country’s ethnic armed groups had not signed. General Nerdah pointed out that it was ‘ridiculous’ to talk about a ceasefire when “they are fighting in the North, they’re fighting in Shan State, they’re fighting in Kachin State, so those people cannot sign because they are fighting in those areas.”

Mr Kirby said in his statement that the US urged “all parties to continue to engage with each other and civil society representatives in the spirit of unity and compromise, particularly in the process to finalize a political dialogue framework and the conduct of the political dialogue itself.”

Mr Kirby called “on all NCA signatories to adhere to the spirit and letter of the agreement they have signed today. Military action undertaken by or against any signatory or non-signatory to this agreement undermines the trust-building necessary for lasting peace, stability, and security for all.”

Mr Kirby’s statement said that the US was “concerned by reports of continued military offensives in Kachin and Shan States and the lack of humanitarian access to many of the more than 100,000 internally displaced persons in those areas.”

General Nerdah said that many Karen international groups and those within Burma opposed the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement that excluded many of the ethnic armed groups.

“The Karen Civil Society and the Karen National Defence Organization are opposing this NCA because we know they [government] are lying to us. They are using divide and conquer, divide and control so that they can split people out, so that we don’t have a voice together in the parliament or outside the parliament that we want to discuss political problems.

Mr Kirby’s in his statement “strongly urged all parties to honor their commitment to ensure unfettered access for humanitarian assistance to all those in need, without exception or delay.”

Mr Kirby said that the “United States will watch closely and support full implementation of all agreements, the NCA, existing bilateral ceasefires, and the political dialogue that follows. We remain committed to the historic process of peace building and national reconciliation in Burma in the months and years to come.”

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