RANGOON — Next time, maybe the National League for Democracy will stick around until the end of the meeting.
Burma’s largest opposition party distanced itself this week from a statement by dozens of political parties that called for the signing of a nationwide ceasefire between the government and ethnic armed groups “as soon as possible,” while an NLD leader insisted the party supports the general principle of the document released on Monday.
“The National League for Democracy, ethnic parties and other parties were not involved in the statement released on August 11, 2014, by political parties that attended the meeting on peace process discussions,” read a statement from the party on Wednesday.
Representatives from the NLD apparently left the gathering of 66 of Burma’s 67 registered political parties before the meeting had adjourned, missing a voice vote on whether there were any objections to the resolution and later finding its name listed as a signatory to the document.
“Some political parties got together to urge for peace process implementation during a coffee break. The NLD felt that [the statement] was not concerned with the topic of the meeting so the NLD was not involved in the discussion,” the party said in the statement.
A senior NLD official declined to identify the “ethnic parties and other parties” that were not among the actual signatories to Monday’s statement, saying only that “there are some parties we know.”
“The NLD does not oppose a ceasefire,” Hantha Myint, an NLD central executive committee member, told The Irrawaddy. “We are not saying we don’t want to be involved [in ceasefire negotiations]. We are just saying we were not involved in releasing that statement.”
“We are not saying not to implement a ceasefire. Nor are we saying that we are not satisfied with the [political parties’] call [for ceasefire]. We just want to say that what they did was not in line with the meeting agenda,” Hantha Myint added.
About 150 representatives from 66 political parties attended the meeting with President’s Office Minister Aung Min and other members of the government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC) at the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) in Rangoon on Monday to discuss a framework for political dialogue and ongoing peace negotiations with ethnic armed groups.
“We urge all concerned parties to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement as soon as possible for the sake of long and sustained peacebuilding in [Burma]. From that, without fail there should be a framework for political dialogue and the [start of] political dialogue, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement,” the parties were purported to have said jointly.
However, a copy of the document seen by The Irrawaddy concludes with: “This statement is released by the free wish of the following political parties,” and below is signed simply, “Political Parties.”
Aye Min, who attended the meeting as a representative from the Dawei Nationalities Party, said the document was later amended to include the names of all 66 political parties that sent representatives to the meeting.
A Shan Nationalities Democratic Party representative proposed the statement and received support from three other parties, according to Thu Wai, chairman of the Democratic Party (Myanmar).
“Nyan Win from the NLD left after a coffee break so they didn’t know. This statement is out with the agreement of all parties [present] at the end,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Democracy Alliance, which is made up of 11 political parties but does not include the NLD, released a statement on Thursday reaffirming its support for the resolution issued Monday.
The confusion comes as members of the 16 ethnic armed rebel groups that comprise the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordinating Team (NCCT) prepare to meet with government peace negotiators on Friday to attempt to iron out differences between the two sides’ draft ceasefire proposals.