By Zin Linn
Five ethnic rebel groups held peace talks with a government delegation at an unidentified location on the Thai-Burma border on Saturday and three informally agreed a ceasefire, according to border sources.
According to Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.), on November 19, U Aung Min, union minister of railway transport and special representative of President Thein Sein, met delegations from Shan, Karen, Karenni, Chin and Kachin armed ethnic groups at a secret location on the Thai-Burma border.
Three of the groups – Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), Karen National Union (KNU) and Chin National Front (CNF) – had reportedly agreed to sign ceasefire accords with respective state governments. The Shan State Army (SSA) South, aftera one-and-a half-hour meeting with Naypyitaw’s special representative U Aung Min at an undisclosed location on the Thailand-Burma border yesterday, had reached agreement for a ceasefire with Naypyitaw – www.taifreedom.com – the SSA’s webpage, reports Sunday.
During the meeting, Lt-General Yawdserk, Chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), had offered a 4 point proposition – Cessation of hostilities; Political negotiations; Setting up of a Special Development Zone, and Cooperation in the drug eradication.
The two sides will hold an additional meeting for an official signing of the ceasefire in the near future, source says. The SSA South will be the fourth opposition armed group, after Wa, Mongla and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, to reach agreement with the new so-called civilian government.
According to the SSA source, Yawdserk told U Aung Min, “Our people have been living in the dark for more than 50 years. It is good that the sun has come up. However, if we are unable to prevent continued inequality and discrimination, another eclipse is bound to come.”
At the same time, Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) agreed to hold additional peace talks ahead of signing a ceasefire treaty.
Meanwhile, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) was the only major ethnic armed group that failed to come into view at the preliminary meeting. It had unsuccessfully insisted on U Aung Min meeting the negotiating committee formed by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). Actually, Karen National Union, Chin National Front, Karenni National Progressive Party and Kachin Independence Organization are also members of the UNFC.
The Saturday meeting on the border closely followed ASEAN’s approval of Burma assuming the grouping’s chair in 2014 as well as Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to re-register her National League for Democracy (NLD) and contest the upcoming by elections.
According to Shan Herald Agency for News, persons in charge of the respective delegations were Lt-General Yawdserk (RCSS), David Taw (KNU), Bee Htoo (KNPP), Zin Cung (CNF) and N Ban La (KIO).
Burma’s new Thein Sein government seemed on the brink of a historic move Friday as democracy icon and key opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi decided to take part in the country’s official political arena and President Obama declared plans sending the US Secretary of State to Burma for the first time in half a century.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday her trip to Burma is to see whether the military-backed leadership of Burma is committed to both political and economic reform.
“One of the reasons that I’m going is to test what the true intentions are and whether there is a commitment to both economic and political reform,” Clinton said in an interview with CNN television.
In an interview with Fox News, Clinton said there were specific steps she expected from Burma.
“We’d like to see more political prisoners released. We would like to see a real political process and real elections. We’d like to see an end to the conflicts, particularly the terrible conflicts with ethnic minorities,” she said.
As the US has clearly called for an end to the war against the ethnic people, the Thein Sein government seems to be starting a first stage of a ceasefire scheme.