Ethnic Rebels’ Conference Postponed

By Than Htike Oo 13 December 2013

A planned second round of meetings of Burma’s ethnic armed groups to discuss a government-proposed nationwide ceasefire has been postponed to January next year, said the Karen National Union (KNU), which is organizing the conference in Karen State.

Pado Mahn Mahn, joint secretary 2 of the KNU, told The Irrawaddy that the conference would be held in the KNU’s Brigade 7 territory, either at
Lay Wah or Law Kee Lar area.

The groups were scheduled to meet this month, but the conference had has been postponed to the third week of January 2014, he said, because “the organizers needed some more time” to make necessary logistical arrangements.

Discussions in the January meeting will focus on reaching a joint position among the groups towards Naypyidaw’s proposal for a nationwide ceasefire with armed ethnic groups.

In October, the ethnic groups met for a similar meeting in the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) stronghold of Laiza, where they drew up an 11-point agreement outlining their position on a nationwide ceasefire with Naypyidaw.

In early November, government chief peace negotiator Aung Min met with the various groups in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina, but the sides failed to reach an agreement on a nationwide ceasefire.

President Thein Sein’s reformist has been keen to sign such an agreement with the rebels and announced it would hold another round of ceasefire talks this month in the Karen State capital Hpa-an, but this meeting has been postponed until early next year.

Pado Mahn Mahn said that after the January conference representatives from ethnic armed groups will meet with the government delegation in Hpa-an.

He said the KNU had planned to include issues surrounding Burma’s first official census in the country, which will be conducted in March 2014, in the meeting’s agenda.

Founded in 1947, the KNU has been fighting against successive Burmese governments for equality and self-determination. In January 2012, it reached a preliminary ceasefire agreement with the current administration led by President Thein Sein.

Naypyidaw has signed ceasefire with more than a dozen armed groups since 2012.

However, clashes between the government troops and ethic armed groups such as the KIO, the Shan State Army-South and Ta’ang National Liberation Army have continued in Kachin and Shan states.