Myanmar president expects to fix truce pact date

Yangon, Feb 1: Myanmar President U Thein Sein said Saturday that the next meeting between the government and ethnic armed groups at Hpa-an in Kayin state could work out a date for signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

U Thein Sein made the remarks in his monthly radio speech to the nation, Xinhua reported.

Underscoring the successful holding of the recent ethnic armed groups’ meeting at Law Khee Lar in Kayin state, organised by the Karen National Union (KNU), U Thein Sein said necessary negotiations will be held in Hpa-an to discuss the signing date and other details of a nationwide ceasefire agreement before setting up a framework for national reconciliation.

U Thein Sein shared the view of KNU chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe who said, in order to make sure that the peace process moves forward step by step, “all parties must make history by courageously signing the (nationwide ceasefire) agreement”.

In late January, leaders of 17 ethnic armed groups in Myanmar held a six-day conference in KNU-controlled Law Khee Lar or Laywa, agreeing in principle to the government’s framework proposal for “first ceasefire, then political dialogue” to achieve domestic peace and the demand for political dialogue is stipulated in the armed groups’ draft national ceasefire accord (NCA).

The Law Khee Lar conference is said to be an advanced preparation for holding a series of political talks after the signing of the ceasefire accord, according to a statement issued at the end of the conference Jan 25.

The Law Khee Lar conference, chaired by KNU chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe, was a follow-up of an earlier ethnic leaders’ conference held in Laiza in northern Kachin state in October-November 2013, in which the ethnic leaders signed an 11-point framework agreement of their own, which was presented to the first round of talks with the government in Myitgyina, the capital of Kachin state, for making a nationwide ceasefire deal.

The six-day Law Khee Lar conference will be followed by the second round of talks between the government’s Central Peace Making Work Committee and the ethnic armed groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) represented by ethnic leaders.

During the Myitgyina talks, the government’s Central Peace Making Work Committee also put forward its draft nationwide ceasefire accord.

The 17 armed groups that attended the six-day conference included Kachin Independence Army (KIA), United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), Kayin National Union (KNU), Kayinni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Restoration Council of the Shan State Army (RCSS), Pa-O National Liberation Organisation (PNLO), Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army (DKBA), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Chin National Front (CNF).

Absent from the conference were the United Wa State Army (UWSA) of Shan state special region-2 and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) of Shan state special region-4. However, the two groups promised to take part in the NCA signing despite their absence from the conference, according to conference sources.

Ethnic armed groups have been in existence for about six decades after Myanmar regained independence in 1948 and peace negotiations have been under way during the tenures of successive governments including the military government.