By Aye Nai
Burma’s government has secured another tentative truce with ethnic rebels, this time in the country’s south east where officials from the New Mon State Party (NMSP) this morning agreed to an initial deal that could pave the way for a ceasefire.
The two sides have been in talks over the past month, but today’s decision is the strongest signal yet that a ceasefire is on the cards. Saw Hla Maung Shwe, who has acted as a broker for Naypyidaw’s Internal Peace Making Committee, told DVB that additional negotiations would take place.
Like the recent agreements between the government and warring Karen and Shan armies, the NMSP has demanded that it be allowed to open liaison offices in Mon state and decide on territory.
NMSP officials said another round of talks would take place in the third week of February.
The group, which was formed in 1962, agreed to a ceasefire with the former junta in 1995, but relations have dramatically fluctuated since 2010 when the government demanded that the NMSP become a Border Guard Force.
Following the refusal to bow to government demands, Mon refugees fled to Thailand in their thousands, fearing an outbreak of fighting. Although that never materialised, the atmosphere in Mon state has since remained tense.
Major Soe Moe Aung, personal assistant to Railway Minister Aung Min, who is leading the government’s peace team, said that several stages still needed to be reached before a ceasefire is cemented.
“It’s not final yet. The [NMSP] delegation will debrief its Central Committee about what they agreed here and it should be finalised in the [meeting in the] third week of February.”
On Monday another rebel group, the Shan State Army–North, agreed to a truce with the government, and has reportedly already begun negotiating territory in the eastern Burmese state.
It follows the signing of a ceasefire on 12 January between Naypyidaw and the Karen National Union, whose six-decade war with the Burmese government is the world’s longest-running. Like the NMSP, however, the Karen army still needs to agree to additional points, including the carving up of Karen territory.