Myan­mar holds peace talks ahead of poll

The China Post - - LIFE -

The Myan­mar gov­ern­ment, army and eth­nic armed groups met in Yan­gon on Fri­day in last ditch ef­forts to thrash out a his­toric peace agree­ment be­fore the for­mer jun­tarun na­tion goes to the polls in Novem­ber.

The long-drawn ne­go­ti­a­tions, aimed at end­ing civil wars that have blighted the coun­try for more than half a cen­tury, have snagged on whether a deal should in­clude all rebel groups — in­clud­ing sev­eral still locked in com­bat with the army.

“This is­sue of all-in­clu­sive­ness is very im­por­tant for the peace process,” said lead gov­ern­ment ne­go­tia­tor Aung Min in open­ing re­marks, adding that the gov­ern­ment was look­ing for a “prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion.”

But observers say the na­tion’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary is vig­or­ously op­posed to in­clud­ing some of the in­sur­gents it is still fight­ing on the front­lines.

The talks come as Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment is bat­tling floods that have killed scores of peo­ple and left more than 330,000 af­fected across the coun­try.

The quasi-civil­ian gov­ern­ment, which took power four years ago, has placed the res­o­lu­tion of bloody eth­nic con­flicts at the heart of its re­forms.

A na­tion­wide cease-fire is seen as the first step to­wards peace, open­ing the way to more com­plex po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and ques­tions of fed­er­al­ism in a coun­try where the army has for decades hung its le­git­i­macy on en­forc­ing its own con­cept of unity.

In March Pres­i­dent Thein Sein se­cured a draft deal with more than a dozen rebel groups to end decades of fight­ing, de­scribed by the United Na­tions as a “his­toric and sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment.”

But the gov­ern­ment is ea­ger to seal a full na­tion­wide ceasefire be­fore elec­tions on Nov. 8 which are seen as a key test of re­forms af­ter decades of mil­i­tary rule.

Out­breaks of some­times heavy fight­ing in mul­ti­ple re­gions have cast a shadow over the process, with lin­ger­ing dis­trust be­tween long­stand­ing en­e­mies also ham­per­ing progress.

Con­flict in Kachin state has left some 100,000 peo­ple dis­placed since a cease-fire deal col­lapsed soon af­ter the end of junta rule in 2011.

Fight­ing be­tween gov­ern­ment troops and eth­nic Chi­nese rebels also erupted this year in the Kokang re­gion of north­ern Shan state, caus­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple to flee their homes, many into China.

The Kokang rebels an­nounced a uni­lat­eral cease-fire in June.

But their in­clu­sion in the peace deal — along with com­bat al­lies the Arakan Army and Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (TNLA) — has proved con­tro­ver­sial for the mil­i­tary.

“We hope to get the best re­sult af­ter the ne­go­ti­a­tions,” said Naw Zip­po­rah Sein, of the eth­nic armed or­ga­ni­za­tions’ del­e­ga­tion, adding that the groups were de­ter­mined to “sign to­gether.”


Myan­mar vol­un­teers bear­ing plac­ards that read: “You can do­nate for vic­tims of flood­ing” walk on a road as they col­lect do­na­tions and re­lief items from passersby for flood­ing vic­tims in down­town Yan­gon, Myan­mar, Thurs­day, Aug. 6.

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