The “outlawed” student army known as the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) will focus on achieving a ceasefire agreement with Naypyidaw in its third round of talks with the government peace team over the weekend.
The ABSDF issued a statement on Tuesday saying the delegation, led by its chairman Than Khe, will meet with chief peace negotiator Aung Min, who is a minister from the President’s Office and head of the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), in Pa-an on Sunday.
The rebel group will take a seat at the political negotiating table as Burma’s various ethnic and political factions work toward national reconciliation and internal peace, said Myo Win, vice-chairman of the ABSDF. “Meanwhile, as we are an armed group, the ceasefire issue will be included, as it is the key to a political solution.”
Though planning to meet in the Karen State capital, the venue could change due to recent heavy rains and flooding across the state that has displaced thousands of residents.
“The venue could be in Rangoon. We are renegotiating for the venue because of the floods in Pa-an,” said Myo Win.
“Our focus is to put current political problems onto the political negotiating table. Without a ceasefire, the political problem cannot be solved. Political dialogue will be presented there by both sides.”
Formed in November 1988 after student activists fled to border areas to fight against Burma’s military regime, the ABSDF began communicating with peace teams from President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in January of last year. Its members are based in the northern, western and southern border areas of Burma, and the ABSDF has forged alliances with the ethnic Kachin in the country’s north, and the Karen in the southeast.
The ABSDF would stand by its demands in talks with the government, Myo Win said, adding that “it is important to free all the political prisoners to have all-inclusive involvement in the peace process and in the current political changes. We will also work with others to amend the 2008 Constitution for the betterment of the ethnic groups in terms of equality and autonomy for them.”
The ABSDF’s peace delegation will join the ’88 Silver Jubilee on Aug. 8 to commemorate 25 years since Burma’s mass popular uprising in 1988.
“Our members will join the ceremonies in Rangoon, Mandalay, Moulmein, Taunggyi and Pathein [Irrawaddy Division] and share our opinions and the organization’s activities,” said Myo Win. The 35-member delegation will also meet with politicians, civil society leaders and activists to share their thoughts and take suggestions.
Myo Win said the group wished to meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, currently a parliamentarian and opposition leader, to share their opinions with her as well as hear her advice. “We have had a desire to meet her for a long time,” he said.
The group has been in peace talks with the government for 18 months and has held two formal meetings and several informal discussions with the MPC.
The group wants representatives from its ethnic allies present for their peace talks this weekend, but Myo Win did not reveal who would be invited, saying discussions on the matter were ongoing.