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Myanmar rebels: Kokang groups must join cease-fire deal

Government refuses to allow rebels in northeast -- with whom fighting continues -- be part of accord

14.05.2015
Myanmar rebels: Kokang groups must join cease-fire deal

By Joshua Carroll

YANGON, Myanmar

Rebel negotiators will refuse to sign a much-lauded cease-fire agreement in Myanmar unless three militias locked in fierce fighting with government troops are included in the deal, local media reported Thursday.

Naing Han Thar, leader of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), said rebels in northeastern Kokang, where recent fighting has displaced tens of thousands, are among the groups that must be allowed to sign the deal.

"We won't sign it without these three groups," he told the Myanmar Times, adding that if they are excluded "we cannot say it is a nationwide cease-fire agreement."

The United Nations and others had heaped praise upon President Thein Sein’s reformist government in late March after he secured a preliminary agreement with rebel groups to sign a nationwide accord.

Some analysts, however, were quick to criticize that optimism, emphasizing that nothing concrete had yet been achieved.

Despite the agreement, fighting has continued with rebels from the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. The government has so far refused to allow them to be part of the accord despite the fact that all three groups are members of the NCCT.

Its negotiators, led by Aung Min, say they want to sign the deal with the rest of the NCCT before bringing in the other three militias.

Meanwhile, ethnic armies are due to meet before the end of the month to discuss the agreement.

Military-owned media reported Wednesday that government troops had captured three more hill posts from Kokang rebels during offensives near the Chinese border this week.

Seven Kokang rebels were killed in the attacks, according to the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar. “The government troops are following the insurgents to be able to restore peace and stability,” the report said.

Thein Sein, whose reformist government replaced the former military dictatorship in 2011, hopes to have a nationwide accord signed before a landmark general election later this year.

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