Latest Round of Nationwide Ceasefire Talks Kicks Off

By May Kha 22 September 2014

RANGOON — The government’s lead peace negotiator has pledged to push ahead with talks to end decades of conflict in Burma no matter the obstacles, as officials from Naypyidaw sit down with ethnic rebel groups this week for the latest round of talks on reaching a nationwide ceasefire accord.

President’s Office Minister Aung Min, who chairs the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC), made the vow at a meeting between the UPWC and ethnic armed groups’ National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) at the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center on Monday in Rangoon.

“The government has agreed in its [ceasefire] draft to build a new nation, recognizing the term ‘federal,’ which has never been recognized in Burma’s history,” Aung Min said.

“We, the government, intend to solve political problems politically and hold an all-inclusive political dialogue,” he added.

The latest discussions are the sixth round in a series of ceasefire talks between the UPWC and NCCT. The government has said it hopes to ink a nationwide ceasefire accord next month, though several previous self-imposed deadlines for a signing have come and gone over the last year.

This week’s talks will focus on military affairs, said NCCT member Khun Okkar.

“In the previous discussions, we only agreed in principle on military affairs,” he said. “We’ll discuss it in detail this time.”

“Ethnic groups have proposed that a leading committee [to discuss military affairs] be formed with ethnic representatives. But the government viewed the move as a counterbalancing act and we are therefore negotiating on it.

“Then, we’ll negotiate military deployments and a code of conduct and rules and regulations for the armed forces. But I think it will be difficult to negotiate those rules and regulations,” he said.

Nai Hong Sar, who leads the NCCT, called on the military representatives in attendance this week, including Lt-Gen Myint Soe who commands troops in conflict-torn Kachin State, to take “bold steps” to bridge the gap between the two sides’ visions of what a nationwide ceasefire should look like.

“The other side [the military] needs to take bold steps now as the president has begun to see things correctly. We will be able to solve the problems if we try to find a solution peacefully, as brothers,” he said.

The current ceasefire draft is made up of seven chapters. The ongoing meeting will concentrate on issues related to military deployments and establishing a code of conduct comprised of rules for troops on both sides of the conflict.

In addition to Aung Min, the government sent Minister of Immigration and Population Khin Yi to this week’s talks. A parliamentary representative and several high-ranking generals from the Burma Army also attended Monday’s meeting, as did senior members of the NCCT including Khun Okkar, Gen. Gun Maw and Salai Lian Hmong Sakhong.