Se­ces­sion fears cloud Myan­mar peace talks: gov­ern­ment

“Peo­ple, the mil­i­tary and the gov­ern­ment have wor­ries that the union (of Myan­mar) will split into pieces if we do not have that com­mit­ment.”

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Talks to end decades of bit­ter civil war in Myan­mar have fal­tered, a gov­ern­ment spokesman warned Sun­day, blam­ing eth­nic rebel de­mands for greater au­ton­omy, which the mil­i­tary fears could break the coun­try up.

The civil­ian-led gov­ern­ment of Aung San Suu Kyi has made strik­ing a peace deal a key pil­lar of her ad­min­is­tra­tion, but fight­ing has in­stead in­ten­si­fied in re­cent months, with tens of thou­sands dis­placed by con­flict.

With only a day to go be­fore the end of the sec­ond round of peace talks un­der her watch, of­fi­cials said lit­tle head­way had been made on the fed­er­al­ism or in­creased au­ton­omy that are key de­mands for eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups.

“There will be a less good re­sult than peo­ple are hop­ing for,” Zaw Htay, spokesman for the pres­i­dent’s of­fice, told re­porters on Sun­day, adding “we did not get agree­ment on the mat­ter of se­ced­ing”.

“Peo­ple, the mil­i­tary and the gov­ern­ment have wor­ries that the union (of Myan­mar) will split into pieces if we do not have that com­mit­ment.”Se­ces­sion is a red line for Myan­mar’s army, with “unity” an oft-re­peated mantra of the mil­i­tary, which ruled Myan­mar with an iron fist for nearly half a cen­tury and still re­tains huge power in the South­east Asian na­tion. Myan­mar, scarred by some of the world’s long­est-run­ning civil wars, has dozens of eth­nic mi­nori­ties, mainly in a horse­shoe of im­pov­er­ished moun­tain­ous bor­der re­gions.

Ne­go­tia­tors from the gov­ern­ment, mil­i­tary and mul­ti­ple rebel groups have spent the last five days in the cap­i­tal Naypyi­daw try­ing to hash out a long-elu­sive deal.

While few ex­pected the break­through in sign­ing a na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment that Suu Kyi has pushed for, there were hopes the con­fer­ence might pro­duce some sort of progress on fed­er­al­ism or in­creased au­ton­omy for eth­nic groups.

Zaw Htay, who was a se­nior fig­ure in Myan­mar’s pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary-dom­i­nated gov­ern­ment, said ne­go­tia­tors dis­cussed 21 points deal­ing with po­lit­i­cal is­sues, but only found agree­ment on 12 -- an illustrati­on of how lit­tle con­sen­sus had been reached.

Hopes had been high that Myan­mar’s first freely elected gov­ern­ment for gen­er­a­tions would end the run­ning con­flicts that have claimed thou­sands of lives and kept the coun­try mired in poverty.

But many eth­nic groups say Suu Kyi -- a mem­ber of the eth­nic group that also dom­i­nates the army -- has not lis­tened to their con­cerns and is work­ing too closely with the mil­i­tary.

The talks come as vi­o­lence in Myan­mar’s north­east has reached its worst point since the con­flict-rid­den 1980s.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have been forced to flee months of heavy fight­ing be­tween the army and in­sur­gent groups, many of them cross­ing into neigh­bour­ing China, which has sent del­e­gates to the talks.

Un­der Myan­mar’s junta-era con­sti­tu­tion Suu Kyi’s civil­ian gov­ern­ment has lit­tle con­trol over the mil­i­tary.

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