The NCA, which has been broken in essence; Is the single command system of the People’s Defense Forces PDF probable?

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – August 10 Scenes

MoeMaKa, August 11, 2023

The NCA, which has been broken in essence; Is the single command system of the People’s Defense Forces PDF probable?


In the past few days, the leader of the military council has criticized the actions, failures, and futilities of the ministries in a meeting called in Nay Pyi Taw, according to BBC Myanmar. In that meeting, the leader of the military council, Min Aung Hlaing, reiterated that the NCA, “Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement”, will be going on. He also said that, in going to a federal system, it will be based on the region rather than ethnicity. Currently, in 2008 constitution, federal rights are already included, and if it meets the public consensus, the Tatmadaw has agreed to prepare it.


Here, instead of agreeing to amend the federal system, the NCA agreement is still being verbally maintained, but in practice, the military council troops are shooting, bombing, and killing civilians as supporters of the armed members. In addition, they burned down homes, destroyed resources and assets to make it difficult for villages to recuperate, and made it impossible to help the armed movement.


Although the NCA is only verbally maintained, fierce fighting is taking place with ethnic armed groups such as Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Rakhine, Ta’ang, and Chin, as well as with SSPP/SSA, one of the 2 major Shan armed groups. Among the groups that have signed the NCA, only the New Mon State Party and the Lahu Democratic Union have not fought.


To be clear, after the military coup, the NCA has essentially become null and void.


KNU, one of the armed groups that signed the NCA, said at a press conference these days that the NCA contract has already been voided since the military coup. The news media reported that KNU said that the NCA has become null and void and there is no need to follow it because the military council violated and breached Section 1  of the NCA, which states that the political problem must be solved by political means.


After U Thein Sein’s government came to power in April 2011, many informal and formal peace talks were held, as well as a number of conferences and signings at the national level or state/region level, by inviting regional armed groups, which has silenced the sound of gunfire in many parts of the country. However, due to the military coup in 2021, the decade-long discussions, agreements, and construction all went down the drain.


Another topic for today is the question of whether the People’s Defense Forces that emerged after May 2021 can come under a single command system. The People’s Defense Forces, commonly referred to as PDF, are those who stand on their own, as groups organized and active under the Ministry of Defense of the National Unity Government, as groups under ethnic armed groups, as groups living in their controlled areas and attacking the Military Council Army, etc. There are many individual armed groups that stand on their own with their own command system, with different ways of emerging, different support organizations, and different access to weapons and money.


Under the general name PDF, they have given a regional name or given a specific name, and because the common enemy is the army of the military council, it is generally understood that there is nothing that cannot be negotiated and disagreed with. However, the question becomes how to solve the problems of administration, tax collection, disharmony, differences of opinion, and conflict of interests among the PDF forces on the ground.


When there are conflicting interests, when there are villages and towns with overlapping territorial jurisdictions between one group and another, when there are different attitudes in the practical application of tax collection policies, when there are practical administrative issues such as different rates or double charging, when an armed group abuses its power, and when human rights violations occur, how will the order system be maintained and enforced? This question cannot be answered straightforwardly.


These days, the friction between the PDF forces, the arrest of the family members of one side by a battalion leader, and the killing of the leader in retaliation by the other side, happened among the PDF forces in central Myanmar.


Similarly, there was an issue of an order prohibiting the arrival of other PDF armed members in Depayin Township, and last month, an incident occurred among PDF groups in the Roma area of Magway, where the leader of a group was invited to a meeting and shot in front of the public.


Looking at these events, it is clearly seen the lack of a system for how to solve the problems among the PDF armed forces that are not under a single command system, if conflicts were to occur among them when these armed groups exercise administrative power, in a situation where there is confusion in political stance, rules and regulations, administration issues, and mandates of each individual group, and where the administration has not yet been properly established. There are still questions about how to solve these problems after recognizing the presence of such issues, and what the basic requirements and conditions will be to solve them.