Myanmar signs peace accord with ethnic groups, Doval a witness

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 15, 2015 20:31 IST
Myanmar's President Thein Sein (with yellow ribbon) greets international witnesses after the signing ceremony of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (AFP)

The Myanmar government on Thursday signed a peace accord with eight of the 15 ethnic armed groups, a ceremony which was attended by national security adviser Ajit Doval along with other five international witnesses.

India apart international representation was from China, Japan, Thailand, the United Nations and the European Union, official spokesperson in the external affairs ministry Vikas Swarup said.

Myanmar is the only South East Asian country India shares a land boundary with.

“As a friendly geographical, historical and cultural neighbour of Myanmar, we were glad to make a small contribution to the best prospects of peace in Myanmar. The eight groups among the ethnic minorities signed this peace accord today belonging to the Kayin and the Chin groups.

“The agreement remains open for the signature from the other groups with which the government of Myanmar has been in negotiations with. The signing ceremony was attended by very few... as international witnesses,” he said.

The ceasefire pact with eight ethnic minority armies is seen as a step towards ending decades of civil war though the move has weakened by the refusal of several other rebel groups to join the agreement.

The hand of a leader of an armed ethnic group is seen on a screen as he signs the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) as Myanmar's President Thein Sein (6th right), government officials, ethnic rebel groups and international witnesses sit below during the signing ceremony of the NCA in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (REUTERS)

In a televised signing ceremony in the capital Nay pyi Taw, Myamar President Thein Sein said the deal would give “an inheritance of peace” to future generations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special envoy for northeast R N Ravi and former Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga were also present on the occasion.

The deal fell short of its nationwide billing, with seven of the 15 armed groups invited declining to sign due to disagreements over who the process should include and ongoing distrust of Myanmar’s semi-civilian government and its still-powerful military.

President Sein, a former general, made the nationwide ceasefire a key platform for his reformist agenda after taking power in 2011 and ending nearly 50 years of military rule.

While the absentees were a blow to the President, who pushed for the deal to be signed ahead of a November 8 general election, he described the deal on Thursday as historic.

“The nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) is a historic gift from us to our generations of the future,” Sein said at a signing ceremony attended by hundreds of diplomats, officials and rebel group representatives in the country’s capital.

“This is our heritage. The road to future peace in Myanmar is now open.”

Sein said he would continue with efforts to convince other groups to join the ceasefire later.

Among those that signed was the Karen National Union (KNU), Myanmar’s oldest armed group. The KNU has fought one of the world’s longest running conflicts with the Myanmar military spanning nearly 70 years.

“The NCA is a new page in history and a product of brave and energetic negotiations,” Saw Mutu Say Poe, the chairman of the KNU, said at the ceremony.

(With Reuters inputs)

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