Armed ethnic organizations that are members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) which did not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) said that the incumbent government and Tatmadaw (defence services) were using the NCA as a military and political weapon against them.
The statement issued on February 21 after the 4-day UNFC extraordinary meeting, held from February 18 to 21, says the UNFC strongly condemns the strategy used by the government and Tatmadaw for creating racial hatred and a divide and rule policy as a military strategy against them.
UNFC general secretary Khoo Oo Reh said to reporters that they condemned the government and Tatmadaw as they were preparing to launch military offensive against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and were creating clashes between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and the Palaung State Liberation Front/T’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA).
“We cannot see this conflict simply as fighting between the RCSS and PSLF/TNLA. This conflict is spreading in Shan State and some are interpreting this conflict as fighting between ethnic Shan and ethnic Palaung. So we are deeply worried about [rumours] being spread about [this being] a racial and communal conflict. In the last one or two days, the Tatmadaw has been preparing to launch offensives against the Kokang (MNDAA). Now it has started. We believe these movements and strategies [are to] put pressure on us, launching an offensive against us in various ways, and creating divide and rule among us. I mean they are saying peace on the one hand and, on the other hand, creating problems,” he said.
He was speaking at the same time as the US expressed similar concerns over the conflict. In its statement, the US expressed their concern and warned that the conflict could escalate and would jeopardize the ongoing peace process.
On the last day of the meeting, the UNFC had not yet decided to accept the Arakan Army (AA) as a member organization and formed a 6-member panel to consider their application within three months.
Khu Oo Reh said, “We have not yet accepted the AA as a member organization at the moment. We have another Rakhine organization, the Arakan National Council (ANC) in the UNFC so we think it would be more positive if all of these Rakhine organizations could merge as one and this oneness and wholeness will be more beneficial to the Rakhine people. So we passed a resolution to mediate among them to help merge them into one.”
The 6-member panel is led by Maj. Gen. TarAik Phone (PSLF) and the members are Duwa BawmWam Layaw (KIO), Col. Solomon (LDU), Sao Say Om (SSPP), Nai Shwe Thein (NMSP) and Aung San Myint (KNPP).
The extraordinary meeting reviewed UNFC policies on politics, the military situation, federal constitution, and other necessary policy matters.
Currently the UNFC has 9 member organizations the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), New Mon State Party (NMSP), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), Arakan National Council (ANC), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) and Wa National Organization (WNO).
The UNFC has formed a 13-member ‘Delegation for Political Negotiation’ (DPN) for engaging in political dialogue led by Khu Oo Reh from KNPP. Other members are Vice-Chairman (1) Brig. Gen. Sao Sai Htoo (SSPP), Vice-Chairman (2) Maj. Gen. Gum Maw (KIO), Maj. Tar Pan La (PSLF), Lt. Col. Phone Win Naing (MNDAA), Sao Say Om (SSPP), Nai Shwe Thein (NMSP), Duwa Bawm Layaw (KIO), Col. Min Tun (ANC), Col. Solomon (LDU) and Maj. Ta Nyi Lu (WNO).
It also formed a 5-member mediation committee for mediating between RCSS and PSLF/TNLA to stop the ongoing war between them. This committee is led by UNFC Vice-Chairman Nai Han Tha (NMSP) the other members are Maj. Gen. Gum Maw (KIO), Maj. Gen. Bee Htoo (NMSP), Brig. Gen. Sao Sai Htoo (SSPP), and Twan Zaw (ANC).