NAYPYITAW, Myanmar -- Myanmar will choose a team of 50 peace negotiators led by a vice-president to settle a conflict in Kachin State and bring all ethnic groups into the political fold ahead of 2015 elections, the main government peace envoy said on April 30.
Aung Min, the railway transportation minister responsible for truces with about a dozen ethnic minority rebel groups that have fought the government for decades, said fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army was all that was standing in the way of "everlasting peace"
Myanmar's reformist President Thein Sein appealed to dozens of ethnic minority dissident or insurgent groups in August to start talks, which was one of the key conditions set by the West in order for sanctions on the country to be lifted.
Aung Min said a complete overhaul of the peace effort was underway to handle what would be complex negotiations towards lasting political deals, which would be spearheaded by Vice President Sai Mauk Kham, an ethnic Shan medical doctor.
"This reorganization is for efficiency. I started with just five or six people but it became a big issue so we need a big organization," Aung Min told Reuters after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the capital, Naypyitaw.
He said six groups had already reached the second stage of President Thein Sein's three-step peace plan and were involved in political talks, while most others had agreed ceasefires.
"The only one remaining is the Kachin," he said.
The shakeup came after six rounds of talks with the KIA and its political leaders that have proved fruitless. Myanmar's army says it is only acting in self-defense, why the KIA says it is facing "total annihilation" as a result of military aggression.
Aung Min said parliament would be brought into the process and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was welcome to take part in the dialogue once she takes her seat in parliament on May 2.
Suu Kyi's father, independence hero Aung San had devised a system of autonomy under a federal republic for ethnic minority groups, but it never took shape because of his assassination shortly before independence.
"I welcome Aung San Suu Kyi. As soon as she's in the parliament she will have a legal platform for her political voice," he said.
"If she chooses to be involved in the peace process, it's a 24-7 job, or full-time in the parliament. It's entirely up to her."
Aung Min said he was confident political agreements with all the groups would be completed in time for the next general election so they could all take part.
"The time frame depends on what needs to be discussed, but by 2015, we will have eternal peace in Myanmar," he said.
About a third of Myanmar's 60 million people belong to ethnic minorities and many of them resent what they see as domination by the majority Burman community.
- « Prev
- Next »