Shan State’s RCSS and Thein Sein Meet for Peace Talks

By Nyein Nyein 10 June 2013

Leaders of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) met with President Thein Sein for the first time on Monday, when the two sides discussed the establishment of an all-inclusive political dialogue, military affairs and the formation of a conflict monitoring team in the eastern state.

Led by Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, the RCSS delegation met with the president, who was accompanied by the government’s chief peace negotiator Aung Min and President’s Office Minister Soe Thane, in the capital Naypyidaw.

The RCSS and its militant arm, the Shan State Army-South, agreed to work with the government on the repositioning of troops, the de-escalation of hostilities and the formation of a conflict monitoring team, said Hla Maung Shwe, a peace broker with the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center.

“The president promised to form the [conflict monitoring] committee,” Hla Maung Shwe said. “The president explained the road map [to peace],” which included establishing an all-inclusive political dialogue in an effort to bring an end to fighting that has plagued Shan State for decades.

He added that the two sides also discussed the issues of internally displaced persons (IDPs), food security for the local population, transportation matters in the state and the issuance of national ID cards to ethnic Shan people.

Monday marked the first time that RCSS leaders have sat down with Thein Sein since ceasefire talks began two years ago.

The president last year met with Karen National Union (KNU) leaders, a meeting that was later heralded as an example of successful engagement by both sides on the path toward national reconciliation.

The RCSS is just the second ethnic armed group to meet personally with the president, following the KNU. Both ethnic groups have signed ceasefire agreements with the government since Thein Sein took office in 2011.

Monday’s meeting came in the wake of an announcement by Aung Min last month that the government was planning to hold a nationwide ceasefire conference to include all of Burma’s ethnic groups. Aung Min said he hoped the gathering next month would serve as the springboard for an all-inclusive political dialogue to follow.

Khun Htun Oo, the leader of the Shan National League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that “the Shan people are on the track of peace.”

During the hour-and-half meeting on Monday morning, Yawd Serk gave Thein Sein a Buddha stupa and a traditional Shan outfit.

The RCSS leaders also discussed the essential points of successive ceasefire accords reached in December 2011, January 2012 and May 2012, Hla Maung Shwe said.

They then held meetings at the President’s Office with 12 ministers from various ministries to discuss implementation of the policies discussed with Thein Sein.

Hla Maung Shwe said the two sides will continue their talks with government representatives on Tuesday, when the focus will be on drug issues in the state, which is a major producer of heroin.

The delegation will meet with political figures, Shan leaders and civil society groups in Rangoon on Wednesday, followed by meetings in Mandalay and the Shan State capital of Taunggyi during a tour of nearly two weeks.