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Myanmar government, ethnic armies agree on second cease-fire draft

Publisher Radio Free Asia
Publication Date 23 May 2014
Cite as Radio Free Asia, Myanmar government, ethnic armies agree on second cease-fire draft, 23 May 2014, available at: [accessed 18 November 2017]
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Ethnic leaders and government negotiators meet in Yangon, March 10, 2014.Ethnic leaders and government negotiators meet in Yangon, March 10, 2014. RFA

Myanmar government peace negotiators and representatives from a coalition of armed ethnic rebel groups wrapped up a three-day meeting on Friday by completing the second draft of a nationwide cease-fire agreement that officials hope could be finalized soon.

The draft document was adopted at the end of the second round of talks between the government's Peace-Making Work Committee (PMWC) and the ethnic armed groups' National Cease-fire Coordination Team (NCCT), the two sides said in a joint statement.

Border affairs minister Gen. Thet Naing Win called Friday for delegations from the PMWC and the NCCT to work towards a final draft of the agreement before the next meeting in June.

"I would like to urge both organizations, if possible, to try for a final draft – not just a third draft of the cease-fire agreement at the next meeting," he told RFA's Myanmar Service.

"[The government side] will also try to implement what we mentioned [producing the final draft of the agreement] through ... discussions with the higher authorities, step by step. I also would like to urge the ethnic representatives to collaborate with us to get what we all want."

The talks, led by Aung Min, a minister in President Thein Sein's office, and the NCCT, led by Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, began Wednesday at the Myanmar Peace Center in Yangon.

"Both parties are trying to achieve a nationwide cease-fire and to begin political dialogue," the joint statement said, according to the Irrawaddy online journal, adding that the two sides would discuss the draft internally before meeting again in June.

The second draft was based on an initial draft the two sides approved during the first round of talks in Yangon in early April, which spelled out seven chapters of the pact.

Both sides have pledged to work towards a final agreement in the hopes of staging a formal signing as soon as possible and progressing to political dialogue the ethnic groups say is necessary to ensure them greater representation in Myanmar's parliament.

Earlier this week, Hla Maung Shwe, a negotiator from the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center, told the Mizzima news agency that of 112 points set for discussion, only 20 had yet to be resolved.

On Friday, he expressed hope that a final draft could be agreed to soon, but acknowledged that some sticking points between the two sides would be difficult to resolve.

"There are only two difficult things we have yet to discuss," he told RFA.

"They concern 'managing the transition period' and 'forming committees for political dialogue'," he added, without elaborating.

Federal union

Col. Khun Okka, joint general-secretary of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) – another rebel umbrella group under which most of the ethnic armies at the negotiations are organized – said that government representatives were "wary about using the phrase 'federal union'."

Earlier this week, the two sides agreed to include wording on federalism in the draft text, which the PMWC had based on comments by President Thein Sein that a federal system of government could be implemented in Myanmar.

Ethnic groups have sought a federal system since Myanmar won its independence after World War II, but the former military government, which handed over power to Thein Sein's quasi-civilian administration in 2011, had seen local autonomy as tantamount to separatism.

Decentralizing power from areas of Myanmar that are home to some of the country's largest minorities would likely require amending the 2008 junta-backed constitution, which Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and rights groups have criticized as "undemocratic."

A parliamentary committee is currently reviewing proposals to amend the charter, which include reducing the military's role in politics and removing a restriction that bars Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president in elections slated for next year because her sons are foreign nationals.

While some ethnic groups have backed a campaign by the NLD and the 88 Generation students group to push for amending the constitution, the topic has not been included in ceasefire negotiations.

The Irrawaddy quoted Col. Khun Okka as saying that constitutional reform was an issue for discussing at another forum.

"It is a little bit beyond our NCCT mandate," he told the journal. "We are only here to discuss the cease-fire, and political questions are for another day."

The Myanmar military said last month that ethnic armies should respect the 2008 constitution, which opponents say centralizes power in the capital Naypyidaw.

The NCCT is currently awaiting approval for a request it submitted to the government earlier this week to hold a meeting of its ethnic armed group leaders in Mengla, across the border in southwestern China's Yunnan province, during which it will explain the progress made on cease-fire negotiations.

Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo and Kyaw Htun Naing for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Link to original story on RFA website

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