Two armed groups in Myanmar, the New Mon State Party and the Lahu Democratic Union, signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) on Tuesday as a result of meetings with the military’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Meetings between the two armed groups and Myanmar's top military officers and government officials occurred amid attempts by the State Counselor to revive a peace process that seeks to bring an end to decades of civil war.
Since Suu Kyi became Myanmar's leader she has expressed that ending the civil war is her government's top priority, however, the country has witnessed a sharp increase in fighting with rebels during her rule.
Suu Kyi has also come under national and international scrutiny over what the United Nations has called the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s northwestern region. With over 650,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh to escape state violence in Myanmar.
Speaking at a ceremony in the capital Naypyidaw, Suu Kyi announced the next step is to cement the ceasefire and bring the remaining ten armed groups who have not joined the NCA, among them the Kayinni National Progressive Party, the Arakan National Council, the United Wa State Army and the Kachin Independence Army into the agreement through dialogue.
The NCA was drafted and signed by eight rebel groups in 2015, during Myanmar’s quasi-civilian administration. Myanmar’s current government opened new rounds of talks with some of these armed groups in May 2017.
The State Counselor stressed the ceasefire agreement is not the end of the peace process but the beginning of political dialogue. "This is the decision to make the first step to jointly lay the foundation stone of the Democratic Federal Republic that will emerge in the future for the national reconciliation and union peace," Suu Kyi said.
A third meeting of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, which followed the initiation of the NCA in 2015, is likely to be held this later this month to discuss fundamental principles for the establishment of a federal system guaranteeing the autonomy of each ethnic group and the disarmament process.