RANGOON — The government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) held a meeting with an alliance of ethnic and opposition parties on Wednesday to hold the first ever talks about the nature of the political dialogue that should settle Burma’s long-running ethnic conflict, political party members said.
The Burmese government and ethnic rebel groups have said that a political dialogue would start within two months after the signing of a nationwide ceasefire accord. A ceasefire agreement is yet to be finalized, however.
A political dialogue would likely be a process that lasts several years and involve trying to settle the issue of political autonomy for Burma’s various ethnic regions, control over natural resources in these areas, and whether Burma will have one single, federal army.
The Federal Democratic Alliance (FDA), which comprises 11 ethnic political parties and opposition parties, said it met with MPC representatives to discuss drafting a framework for the future political dialogue.
“The MPC met with eleven parties in the FDA and discussed drafting a framework for political dialogue,” Dixon Tun Lin, a central executive committee member of the Karen People’s Party, told The Irrawaddy. “We were asked to draft at least three types of framework.”
“The MPC explained the current peace process [and said] that 70 percent of the [nationwide ceasefire] agreement has been completed,” said Toe Toe, information officer of National Democratic Force party, which is also a FDA member.
“Drafting the framework should start within two months after a nationwide ceasefire is signed,” he said. “They invited us to give suggestions” about the draft framework.
Toe Toe said the parties told the MPC that future negotiations on the nationwide ceasefire should include more participants, and the parties suggested that 300 participants each from the army, Parliament, and ethnic rebels and parties take part.
During the discussion Wednesday, Aung Naing Oo, Associate Director of the MPC’s Peace Dialogue Program, explained how the government planned to complete the nationwide ceasefire negotiations and how it wants to set the conditions for a comprehensive political dialogue and carry out the dialogue.
A statement by the National Democratic Force said the government advisors at the MPC had asked the parties to draft a framework for a future political dialogue.
“FDA member parties already held a workshop about the terms that should be in place for a political dialogue. The basic draft is ready,” the statement said. “A complete framework will be ready after developing it during more discussions.”
The FDA comprises small opposition parties, such as the National Democratic Force, the Democratic Party Myanmar and the Unity and Peace Party, and ethnic minority parties, such as Karen People’s Party, Karen Democratic Party and the Chin Progressive Party.
Burma has another alliance of ethnic parties, the National Brotherhood Federation, which includes organizations such as the Shan National League for Democracy and the All Mon Region Democracy Party.
It is unclear whether this alliance or Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party is scheduled to meet with the MPC for talks about a future political dialogue with Burma’s ethnic minorities.
It also remains to be seen when a nationwide ceasefire would be reached.
An alliance of 16 ethnic armed groups met with the government’s peace negotiations team and Burma Army representatives in Rangoon last month, for a second round of talks on single text for the ceasefire. The sides are scheduled for another round of negotiations later this month.
Burma’s reformist government has signed bilateral ceasefire agreements with more than a dozen major ethnic armed groups since taking office in 2012 and is keen to complete a nationwide ceasefire with all groups.
However, in northern Burma ethnic conflict continues to fester and the Kachin and Palaung rebels there do not have a bilateral ceasefire agreement.