RANGOON — Aung San Suu Kyi will take the lead in Burma’s peace process following the transfer of power early next year, according to a spokesperson for her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).
Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Wednesday, NLD senior member Win Htein said ethnic armed groups are committed to working with the incoming Suu Kyi government to build on the peace process initiated by the current administration of President Thein Sein.
Structure of the talks and key stakeholders may be shifted, he said, without elaborating on what role Suu Kyi herself might assume or whether the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), a government-affiliated facilitation body, would continue to play a key role.
“The peace process will be led by Suu Kyi, don’t think about the others,” Win Htein said.
The party chairwoman and Nobel laureate visited a number of ethnic states throughout her campaign, assuring her supporters that peace and national reconciliation would be high on the party’s agenda if elected.
“We have many things to do in our country, and with so many issues we can’t prioritize just one thing. But the peace process will be a high priority,” Suu Kyi said at a rally in eastern Burma’s Karenni State. “If we can form a government, we will serve the rights of ethnic people and protect them.”
Thein Sein’s government secured a ceasefire agreement with eight of the country’s more than 20 armed rebel groups on Oct. 15, but conflict continues between the Burma Army and a number of non-signatories. Seven armed groups declined to sign the agreement, while several others were declared ineligible by the government.
Several armed groups that were excluded from the agreement—including the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—have voiced openness to continuing the process with the NLD government, which is set to take office early next year in light of the party’s landslide election victory on Nov. 8.
Tar Jode Jar, vice chairman of the TNLA, told The Irrawaddy he would “feel immeasurable happiness” once the NLD takes the lead on the peace process, but that it is still too early to express the group’s expectations.
On Thursday, the government’s chief peace negotiator, Union Minister Aung Min, announced that a 48-member committee will soon be formed to implement a political dialogue set to begin early next year, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement penned in October. The committee will comprise 16 representatives each from the government, ethnic armed groups and political parties.
A framework for the dialogue will be drafted within 60 days of formation of the committee, which should convene before mid-December, Aung Min said, though the ceasefire stipulates that the dialogue commence within 90 days of ascension, or mid-January. It is unclear how the change of government will affect the structure and participation of the dialogue.
Upon her party’s victory last week, Suu Kyi requested meetings with Thein Sein, Burma Army chief Min Aung Hlaing and Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann, with all three agreeing to talks. Suu Kyi met with Shwe Mann on Thursday in Naypyidaw, though the substance of the meeting has not been yet been disclosed.
Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing have agreed to meet with Suu Kyi after the Union Election Commission has concluded the electoral process.