No Ceasefire Until Kachin Fighting Stops: NMSP

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An ethnic Mon armed group based in southern Burma has refused to agree to a ceasefire deal with the government until Burmese military forces end their offensive against Kachin rebels in the north of the country.

“We have no plan to accept a ceasefire deal if they [the Burmese government] continue to wage a military offensive in Kachin State,” said Nai Hang Thar, the secretary of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

The NMSP has no plan to meet Railways Minister Aung Min, a chief negotiator in talks with Burma's ethnic armed groups, despite his request for another meeting in January, Nai Hang Thar added.

“Our decision is based on the policies of the UNFC [the United Nationalities Federal Council, an alliance of ethnic armed groups]. We will not reach a ceasefire alone. Instead of gaining an advantage, we are worried that we will be at a disadvantage if we sign an individual ceasefire agreement,” said Nai Hang Thar.

The NMSP called on the Burmese government to stop fighting in Kachin areas during peace talks with Aung Min in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand, on Dec. 23.

Fighting in Kachin State continues despite a renewed government push to reach ceasefire agreements with Burma's ethnic militias, and despite an order to the army from the country's president, ex-general Thein Sein, to halt offensive actions.

According to NMSP leaders, this shows that the government is not sincere and is just trying to isolate the different armed groups from each other.

Meanwhile, Mon community leaders also urged the NMSP to be cautious about reaching a ceasefire agreement, saying they saw no difference between the recent meeting with Aung Min and peace talks held in the 1990s with Burma’s former premier and spy chief Gen Khin Nyunt.

“Don't be optimistic regarding the peace talks with Aung Min. These talks are likes the ones the NMSP had with Khin Nyunt,” said Nai Sunthorn, the chairman of the Thailand-based Mon Unity League.

When the NMSP agreed to a ceasefire in 1995, Khin Nyunt told the group to express its wishes regarding the rights of the Mon people at the National Convention, a body formed to draft a new constitution.

“The NMSP proposed reforms, but they turned them down at that time. Now, Aung Min has told the NMSP to once again request new rights for the Mon people in Parliament. They [the Burmese government] may do the same thing,” said Nai Sunthorn.

Nai Kao Rot, the former deputy army chief of the Mon National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the NMSP, was even less optimistic.

“We should learn from the past. We should not believe or follow what they say,” he said.

The NMSP concluded its 8th Congress, which it held for three weeks at the party’s headquarters, on Jan. 3.

During the Congress, one executive committee member, Nai Shwe Thein, retired, while three new central executive committee members and eight new central committee members were elected.

Regarding the political situation in Burma, leaders who attended the Congress expressed skepticism about the Burmese government's claims that it is moving toward democracy.