A milestone in the Myanmar peace process— the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

On August 7th, 2015, the Union Government, Hluttaw, Tatmadaw, and Ethnic Armed Organizations achieved a milestone in the peace process by finalizing the text of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
Today, on the fourth anniversary of President U Thein Sein formally involving Ethnic Armed Organizations for peace talks, the finalized text of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement are hereby presented to the people of Myanmar.
Since it took office, the government of President U Thein Sein has strived to end over sixty years of internal armed conflict that has troubled Myanmar after the independence. The Government believes that the root cause of the internal armed conflict is the failure to resolve political issues through political means. Therefore, recognizing that national reconciliation is a vital component of Myanmar’s democratic reforms, President U Thein Sein formally announced invitations to Ethnic Armed Organizations for nationwide peace talks on August 18th, 2011.
After four years of trust building based on patience and mutual understanding, the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement is expected to be signed soon.
Over the last four years, the Government facilitated the holding of peace talks without any preconditions, and each organization was treated equality, regardless of size. The Union Government held separate talks with each of the fifteen Ethnic Armed Organizations, and bilateral agreements were concluded. In total, thirty-nine agreements at the state and union levels were signed.
The Government for the benefit of the peace process, in good faith, and with sincerity, accepted the request of the Ethnic Armed Organizations to organize meetings among themselves, and provided assistance for the holding of ethnic leaders summits. The Government also agreed to discuss proposals for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement that resulted from these summits.
The Union Peace-Making Work Committee (UPWC) composed of representatives from the Government, Hluttaw, and Tatmadaw, and the Ethnic Armed Organizations’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) met over a seventeen-month period to finalize a mutually acceptable Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Talks began in early November 2013, and on March 31st, 2015, the draft text of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, comprising seven chapters and thirty-three paragraphs, was finalized.
Although the government was ready to sign the Agreement, leaders of Ethnic Armed Organizations formed the Senior Delegation (SD) and requested amendments to the text of the Agreement. In the interest of achieving nationwide peace, the Government resumed negotiations, and on August 7th, 2015, all provisions of the Agreement were finalized.
For the first time in Myanmar’s history, the Union Government, Hluttaw, Tatmadaw, and Ethnic Armed Organizations have together successfully negotiated an agreement that is both comprehensive and extensive. Once the Agreement is signed, fighting in conflict areas will decrease and eventually cease, and communities in these conflict areas will begin to enjoy the fruits of peace.
The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement is an important step towards political dialogue to resolve through political means political issues that have persisted between ethnic brethren of this country. Furthermore, the Agreement is a firm pledge and guarantee for the establishment of a federal Union, a demand of the Ethnic Armed Organizations.
The excerpts of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, an important milestone for the peace process, is hereby presented to the people of Myanmar.
The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement includes seven chapters with preamble. The preamble says the agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Ethnic Armed Organization, recognizes, reinforces, and reaffirms all previous agreements between the said two sides.
Chapter 1, Basic Principles, includes 11 provisions highlighting establish a union based on the principles of democracy and federalism in accordance with the outcomes of the political dialogue and in the spirit of Panglong. The second provision says reaching a negotiated settlement to end protracted armed conflict in the country establishing a new political culture of resolving political disagreement through political dialogue. The third provisions highlights discussing in the political dialogue the issue concerning Pyidaungsu Tatmadaw that represents all ethnic nationalities. It also guarantees equal rights to all citizens who live within the Union and ensure no citizen be discriminated in the fourth provision. Establishing a secular state to avoid abuse of religion for political interests; collectively establishing a national identity; holding inclusive political dialogue in accordance with the aspirations and desires of all ethnic nationalities; negotiating in good faith any issues that may arise between and among the dialogue partners; abiding by all mutual promises and commitments and implementing the peace process; effectively implementing the provisions contained in the agreement and protecting lives and property and improving the livelihoods of all the people living in the country are also included in Chapter 1.
Chapter 2, Aims and Objectives, includes four provisions which say the government and the armed groups agree to begin an inclusive political dialogue process; to form a Joint Monitoring Committee to carry out implementing provisions of the agreement, monitoring adherence to the code of conduct, investigating alleged violations, and undertaking conflict resolution functions; to reaffirm all promises and the previous agreements; and to include all relevant ethnic armed organizations in the signing the NCA.
Chapter 3, Ceasefire Related Matters, says the authorities are to meet within 14 days after signing the agreement to define the exact timeframe; both sides agree to abide by the mutually binding terms and military code of conduct and shall submit to investigation by the different levels of Joint Monitoring Committee. The chapter also says the Tatmadaw and Ethnic Armed Organizations agree to abide by 11 terms including ceasing the following actions in ceasefire areas. The chapter also highlights the deployment of military forces to prevent confrontations, free movement of troops, protection of civilians and provision of humanitarian assistance.
Chapter 4, Maintaining and Strengthening Ceasefire, includes provisions on ceasefire related rules and regulations and military code of conduct, Joint Monitoring Committee and Liaison Offices.
Chapter 5, Guarantees for Political Dialogue, says all are to undertake the implementation of all terms and conditions as provided in the agreement. It also includes the political roadmap, political dialogue. Holding of inclusive political dialogue is one of the terms enshrined in this chapter.
Chapter 6, Future Tasks and Responsibilities, provides confidence building measures, tasks to be implemented during the interim period and submission to Pyidaungsu Hluttaw for ratification.
Chapter 7, Miscellaneous, says the signatories are to hold separate discussions, the agreement shall be written in Myanmar and translated into English, all are to undertake to ensure the success of the NCA, and negotiations for the NCA shall be referred to the implementation of the agreement. It also provides guidelines for dispute resolutions, entry into force and signing the agreement.
At the bottom of the agreement is the space for the leaders of the Government, Tatmadaw and Hluttaw for Myanmar government, and leaders of ethnic armed organizations for Ethnic Armed Organizations to sign the agreement before the local and international witnesses.