Zarni Mann
MANDALAY — Political parties in Mandalay called on the government on Wednesday to end its armed conflicts in Burma’s ethnic regions and put more of an effort into the country’s peace process. At a demonstration led by nine political parties including the National Democratic Force (NDF), National Unity Party (NUP) and local civil society groups, protestors spoke out against a recent Burma Army attack in Kachin State that killed 23 ethnic rebel cadets and injured 20 others, saying the incident indicated a lack of resolve in the government’s purported desire to reach a sustainable peace with Burma’s numerous ethnic rebel groups. “In this time of transition, peace is vital for the country,” said Myint Oo, secretary of the NDF’s Mandalay Division branch. “Since there’s no peace yet in the ethnic regions, we would like to urge the government and everyone involved in armed conflicts to emphasize peace and the negotiation process as soon as possible.” Protestors also urged the government and ethnic armed groups’ leaders to end their fighting for the sake of stability and development in the country’s ethnic hinterlands. “Talking about peace only at roundtable meetings is not the way to sustainable peace in the country,” read a message from the Federal Union Party, which also participated in Wednesday’s protest. “If we really want peace, we need to stop fighting and build back the trust that has broken down over the last 60 years. If we keep fighting each other, there will be no trust and no peace.” [irrawaddy_gallery] Neither the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (UNDP) nor Burma’s largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), participated in Wednesday’s protest. The nationalist monk U Wirathu spoke at the demonstration, which drew more than 400 people. Wirathu said ending ethnic conflict depended on both the government and rebel armed groups. “Both parties need to stop fighting,” he said. “Battles require both parties to be involved. If there’s armed conflict, the most affected people are the local civilians. Since there have been battles in the ethnic regions, the regions have been left behind and are underdeveloped. I would like to ask both parties to stop their gun battles and push for peace for the sake of the people and development.” The demonstrators also called on the government and rebel leaders to return to the negotiating table for peace talks that have bogged down in recent months. “There were several meetings for peace and a [nationwide] ceasefire but the process has stalled—the answer to peace is still in our dreams. Since it is important for national reconciliation, peace and stability of the country, we would like to urge the government and its troops to put more emphasis on trust-building, which is vital for the peace process,” said Nan Shwe Kyar, general secretary of the Wuntharnu National League for Democracy party, who added that the recent shelling in Laiza, Kachin State, had affected trust between the government and Kachin rebels. “Because of that incident, the trust that had been built back during peace talks in recent years is broken. The government needs to build it back for the safety and development of women, children and elders, who are most affected by the civil wars in conflict-wracked areas,” she said.

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