The Burmese government’s chief negotiator Aung Min is holding peace talks with the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) in an apparent effort to convince the rebel group to join next month’s nationwide ceasefire conference.
KNPP’s joint secretary Shwe Myo Thant said President Office Minister Aung Min met with KNPP vice chairman Khu Oo Ral on Tuesday in the Karenni (Kayah) State capital Loikaw, where he informed the rebels of the government’s draft national ceasefire accord.
“It is very detailed and I cannot discuss all of it, but it widely covers the ethnics’ political expectations, equality, ceasefire and the way to proceed with the political dialogue,” he told The Irrawaddy.
“I think if the government implement these steps exactly as in their draft, it would be really good for our country,” Shwe Myo Thant said, adding that Aung Min had told them that the draft treaty had yet to be approved by Burma’s National Defense and Security Council.
The 11-member council is chaired by President Thein Sein and includes the speakers of both houses of Parliament, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and his deputy, two vice-presidents and four ministers.
A key point in the government draft, Shwe Myo Thant said, was Naypyidaw’s plan to amend or appeal the Unlawful Associations Act, a colonial-era law used against ethnic groups that sets harsh penalties for anyone with links to organizations considered politically dangerous to the state.
“In the draft that U Aung Min read this morning, it also included how this will be done. We knew that this process will be followed by after the nationwide ceasefire is signed,” said Shwe Myo Thant.
He said the KNPP had taken no position on the government draft as Burma’s major ethnic groups are due to hold a meeting in Laiza, the Kachin rebel stronghold, on Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 to draft their own national ceasefire accord.
State-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported that Aung Min told the KNPP leadership that “the nationwide ceasefire agreementsigning ceremony thatwill be held soon is a steptowards holding politicaldialogues” with all ethnic groups.
President Thein Sein’s reformist government says it signed 14 ceasefire agreements with ethnic groups since taking office in 2011. It is now keen to hold a nationwide peace conference next month in order to present the international community and the public with a concluding achievement that would seemingly end Burma’s decades-old ethnic conflicts.
Naypyidaw has yet to sign ceasefire agreements, however, with the Kachin Independence Army and the Taaung National Liberation Army, which continue to clashs with the Burma Army.
Among the ethnic rebels groups there is skepticism about the government’s willingness to consider their demands for greater political autonomy through the creation of a federal union. Talks between the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of 11 groups, and Aung Min have reportedly stalled.
The KNPP has said it won’t sign a national ceasefire unless it “guarantees a future political dialogue.”
Shwe Myo Thant said next week’s meeting in Laiza would yield a national ceasefire accord proposal drafted by the ethnic groups. “The [KNPP] chairman, vice chairman and the secretary will attend to ethnic conference,” he added.
This week’s talks in Loikaw were the third round of peace negotiations between the KNPP and the government after the sides first signed a ceasefire in mid-2012.
The talks also dealt with the practical implementation of the agreed points, socio-economic development, drug eradication and the return of displaced civilians. “Now we agreed to have more effective collaboration,” Shwe Myo Thant said.
Karenni State Chief Minister Khin Maung Oo, the state attorney general, the Burma Army Eastern Command and several state ministers attended the talks.