Duterte de­clares com­mu­nist cease­fire

The Myanmar Times - - World -

PHILIP­PINE Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte an­nounced yes­ter­day a uni­lat­eral cease­fire with com­mu­nist rebels who are wag­ing one of Asia’s long­est in­sur­gen­cies, and urged them to re­cip­ro­cate.

Mr Duterte made the an­nounce­ment in his first “State of the Na­tion Ad­dress” to Con­gress as he laid the ground­work for peace talks with the com­mu­nists that are due to be­gin in Nor­way next month.

“To stop vi­o­lence on the ground [and] re­store peace, I am now an­nounc­ing a uni­lat­eral cease­fire,” Mr Duterte told law­mak­ers, as he called on the rebels to do the same.

The com­mu­nist re­bel­lion has killed about 30,000 peo­ple since the 1960s. The com­mu­nists’ armed wing, the New Peo­ple’s Army, is be­lieved to have fewer than 4000 gun­men to­day, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, ac­cord­ing to the mil­i­tary.

But it re­tains sup­port among the deeply poor in ru­ral ar­eas, and its troops reg­u­larly kill se­cu­rity forces while ex­tort­ing money from lo­cal busi­nesses.

Mr Dutere’s pre­de­ces­sor, Benigno Aquino, re­vived ne­go­ti­a­tions soon af­ter tak­ing of­fice in 2010 but shelved them in 2013, ac­cus­ing the rebels of be­ing in­sin­cere about find­ing a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment.

The talks col­lapsed af­ter his govern­ment re­jected the rebels’ de­mand to re­lease scores of their jailed com­rades, whom they de­scribed as “po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers”.

Mr Duterte, who took of­fice on June 30 and counts ex­iled com­mu­nist rebel leader Jose Maria Si­son as a friend, had pre­vi­ously of­fered to re­lease some po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

His aides have al­ready held pre­lim­i­nary talks with Si­son and other se­nior com­mu­nist lead­ers, dur­ing which they agreed to re­sume the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions next month. –

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