Ethnic, Political Groups Hold Talks on Thai Border

By Lawi Weng & Kyaw Kha 4 July 2014

RANGOON — Ethnic armed groups and opposition political parties met on the Thai-Burmese border on Friday for the second day of talks organized by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of ethnic armed groups in Burma.

According to a statement issued by the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, one of the participants in the talks, the gathering brought together various political forces for discussions about the government’s push to reach a nationwide peace accord, and opposition calls for amendments to the military-drafted 2010 Constitution.

Besides the UNFC and the 88 Generation group, the meeting was attended by representatives of the United Nationalities Alliance (an umbrella group of ethnic political parties) and the National League for Democracy, the country’s main opposition party.

Nai Hong Sar, head of the UNFC’s National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that his group planned to present a report on its ongoing negotiations with the Burmese government at today’s meeting.

“We will discuss what we have done so far, and ask other people for their ideas. We will also ask them what they see as the obstacles to the peace process and how we can overcome them,” he said.

Ko Ko Gyi, a senior 88 Generation leader, said he urged the ethnic armed groups not to repeat the mistake they made in the past of signing separate ceasefire agreements without first getting guarantees that an inclusive political dialogue would follow.

“We should all be able to participate in this political dialogue together. We should all be united,” he said, adding that the process should also be transparent.

“We need to learn from the past, and also from the example of peace negotiations in other countries. This political dialogue should also be related to the issue of changing the Constitution,” he said.

Since taking power in 2011, President Thein Sein has introduced a series of political reforms and reopened negotiations with the country’s ethnic armed groups, urging them to sign a nationwide peace agreement as a first step toward a political dialogue.

The NCCT, which represents 12 ethnic armed groups, says a key stumbling block to reaching an agreement is the Burmese government army’s rejection of a federal union system.