Peace Process ‘On Track,’ Thein Sein Tells Political Parties

President Thein Sein, at lectern, speaks to 179 representatives from 63 of Burma’s political parties on Saturday in Rangoon. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — During a landmark meeting with Burma’s political parties, President Thein Sein warned over the weekend that the country’s peace process would continue to be fraught with difficulties, given the many ethnic armed groups and their respective interests, while insisting that his government’s three-year-old push for peace is on the right track.

Though the president has met with select political parties three times previously, Saturday’s gathering at the Rangoon Divisional Parliament was the first time that the president has met representatives from every political party in Burma, including the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

In his meeting with 179 representatives from 63 political parties, Thein Sein said 14 out of 16 ethnic armed groups that are in negotiations with the government had agreed to ceasefires, while discussions with the holdouts were ongoing.

“Were it not for your collaboration, the situation today would not have been possible. But we all need to work together to see more [peace process] development in future,” he said.

Most of Burma’s armed groups have signed bilateral ceasefire agreements with the Burma government in recent years, but Naypyidaw is pushing for a single, nationwide agreement signed by all the country’s rebel groups.

The president’s speech comes amid concerns voiced by some over the past few months that the peace process is stalling. Formal talks have been repeatedly delayed and some ethnic armed groups—an ethnic Palaung militia, the United Wa State Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State, among them—are not fully participating in the process. The government has said, nonetheless, that it plans to hold a meeting to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement next month.

Thein Sein said a framework meeting for political dialogue is slated to be convened immediately following the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement. After that, a political dialogue held among all interested parties would take place to discuss the reconstitution of Burma as a federal union. Among other priorities, the nation’s ethnic minority groups are expected to demand greater autonomy and equal rights under an amended—or entirely new—Constitution.

The sought-after nationwide ceasefire is seen only as a means to a more lasting peace in Burma, and not an end in and of itself.

“That’s why we are heading to a peace process based on political dialogue, where you could discuss anything apart from something that would harm the country’s sovereignty, or secession from the Union,” the president said.

Thein Sein’s government, which took office in 2011, has made peace talks with Burma’s government a central focus of his reform drive. Over the same period, however, at times intense fighting between the Burma Army and rebels in Kachin State and northern Shan State has displaced tens of thousands of civilians.

In his 18-minute long speech on Saturday, the president also affirmed that constitutional amendments would be open for discussion during the political dialogue to come, while stressing that changes to the charter should be for the betterment of the whole country and its political, economic and social needs.

“I would not want restrictions being imposed on the right of any citizen to become the leader of the country. At the same time, we will need to have all necessary measures in place in order to defend our national interests and sovereignty,” he said, echoing a sentiment expressed two months ago.

The Constitution was drafted by Burma’s former military government and approved by a referendum in 2008 that was widely seen as rigged. A campaign is now underway, led by NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, to amend it ahead of elections in 2015. The current Constitution guarantees the military a role in politics, including by granting a quarter of parliamentary seats to members of the military, as well as bars Suu Kyi from becoming president. The charter is also widely opposed by Burma’s ethnic minorities.

After the president’s speech, leaders and representatives from the assembled political parties were allowed to speak for five minutes each to express their opinion on matters ranging from national reconciliation to constitutional amendments, the upcoming 2015 elections and the military’s continuing influence over the country’s political system.

Khin Maung Swe from the National Democratic Force party said he was satisfied with the chance to express his opinions and suggestions before the president on Saturday. The NDF politician discussed national reconciliation, and prospects for reducing military appointees within government ministries and in other positions of power.

“The president’s speech today was just mediocre,” he said. “He said nothing objectionable, while he didn’t promise anything.”

Tin Oo, the NLD patron, confined his five-minute remarks on Saturday to the peace process, urging all parties to work together for peace and stability in ethnic minority regions.

“Since independence, our country has been a long way from peace. So, I strongly urge you all, try to work hard for peace,” he said.

5 Responses to Peace Process ‘On Track,’ Thein Sein Tells Political Parties

  1. Blah blah blah and blah blah blah. A man must talk like a man. I do not see the real man’s words in his speech.

  2. Dear Sir,

    The article has made me to reflect the past of our nation.

    In 1920s, General Council of Burma Association (GCBA) and All Buddhist Youth Association formed with united voice and effort of all men and women from almost each ethnicity, but majority of Burman and Mons in Rangoon. Prominent Mon leader, Sir Maung GYi, U Chit Hlaing, Nai Chit Thaung and in later year Mon Pho Cho joined with other prominent leaders such as Ko Aung San (lateer, General Aung San) and Tha Khin Nu (later, Prime Minister U Nu).

    Mon and Burman leaders have been exchanging leadership role could be date back in 15th and 16th century during King Banyi Nung’s era and late 18th during British Ear. The point is that peace process is not new but how to re-build the peace process is slightly new from the old century.

    Burman’s kings ruled Pegu from late 17th century but after less than 100 years, British ruled Burma entirely.

    In late 18th century, Mon and Burmese people have been living, working and fighting together to against British but the size of the Mon population has been decreased than the Burman from the late 17th century.

    The point is that regardless of the size of the current population, Mon and Burman people have been living in lower Burma from the early century as close alliance after the Mon queen Shin Saw Bu returned from Inn Va in late 14th century.

    If we reflect over last 400 years ago, our great Kings and civil leaders have been living in both with peace and some time with violence due to power struggle on the land.

    If we (Mon and Burman) including other ethnic people are determined to live with peace and live (in peace) together in the next 300 years or beyond, the simple action is that we respect the rules of law but we preserve justice for all.

    If justice is only services for some (small population) but rejected to other (large population), no peace could be reached and as human nature, violence could be occurred again.

    If the popular voting system is in place, anyone regardless of race, gender and ethnicity, he or she could be elected as President and Prime Minister.

    The real challenge is in 2015, how we elect our local and national representatives in all seats.

    All political leaders and parties have only one mission. It is to serve the public.

    If president appointed his cabinet with equal representation from all ethnic people and professional, the desire for peace could be reached within.

    Likewise, if all ethnic leaders allowed Burman’s people to live and work in all ethnic areas as equal participation, the tension could br resolved.

    Finally, the late Mon King Dhamma Ceti toured to Inn Va in late 14th century and he lectured the Burman people as a monk in Burmese before he brought back the late Mon queen Shin Saw Bu by boat as part of his mission of rescue her from the Burman’s king forced married.

    After all, we have been living in both good and bad time together but the suffering has never resolved in peaceful methods.

    Mon and Burman have well educated persons from the past to the present. It is time that we listen and respect each other while we seek peace and re-unity with justice for all.

    • The problem today is, we do not have leader from Myanmar ethnic except Suu Kyi who loves real peace in the land. All military related personnel are self-serving people. They do not really care peace and democracy. Their number one ambition is to hang on to power to avoid prosecution. We all need to support Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi is always willing to sit down together at one table with all of us. She is not bossy but servant-minded heart to serve us. She is to serve us but not to be served by us. That is her heart and soul which makes her our fairy queen.

    • “Nai Banya Hongsar” wrote the following sentence:
      Likewise, if all ethnic leaders allowed Burman’s people to live and work in all ethnic areas as equal participation, the tension could br resolved.

      After reading above sentence, i begin to aware that Nai Benya Hongsar is not a Burmese so he or she does not know fox than shwe sold Kachin land to Chinese for his own sake. Fox than shwe asks or orders child soldier ming aung hlaing to continue to kill Kachin and others ethnic systematically with whatever reason. Mr. Nau does not know about the panglong agreement. Mr. Nai think all ethnics do not want to let bama and his Mon to live and earn in all ethnics areas. Mr. Nai also do know “rape” ( raping all ethnics) is a reward from fox bama than shwe for his bama private army. However, Mr. nai is very polite to ask all ethnics to let fox bama private army to go more into all ethnics areas for raping all ethnics and selling their lands to China in cheaper price. Mr. Nai might be learned from notorious Defense service academy in Burma.

  3. All the military government want is to stay in power and keep enriching themselves and their families at the expense of ALL other Burmese. How much longer must we continue to have a state within a state.

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