Peace conference begins in Myanmar with ethnic minority guerrillas

Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- A peace conference between Myanmar’s government and various ethnonationalist guerrillas organized by Aung San Suu Kyi began Wednesday in Naypyidaw, two months before general elections and marked by the absence of some of the most important armed groups.

“I strongly urge all ethnic armed organizations, both those who have already signed the ceasefire and those who have not, and the Tatmadaw (as the army is known in Myanmar) to seize this opportunity. We have sacrificed billions in money, the future of our country and our sons and daughters for the past 70 years,” Suu Kyi said in her keynote address.

Since Myanmar’s independence in 1948, dozens of guerrillas have fought the army in demand of greater autonomy, the main demand of almost all ethnic minorities – including the Kachin, the Karen, the Shan, the Rakhine and the Mon. They’re based in the peripheral regions of the country and together represent more than 30 percent of its 53 million inhabitants.

Suu Kyi has made peace one of her fundamental goals since she came to power in 2016 following the resounding electoral victory of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) the previous year. She has continued the process started by his predecessor, former General Thein Sein, who took power in 2011 after almost five decades of military dictatorship.

Almost immediately after assuming the post of State Councilor, making her the country’s de facto leader, Suu Kyi organized the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, honoring the “Panglong Accord” her father Aung San, father of Burmese independence, signed in 1947 with representatives of three ethnic minorities months before being assassinated.

This fourth round of the peace process promoted by the president will last for three days and arrives more than two years late. It saw numerous postponements due to discrepancies on matters such as which armed organizations of the two dozen currently active in the country should be invited and the issues that could be addressed in the negotiations.

On this occasion, fewer delegates have attended than other times, 230 compared to the more than 700 who participated in 2018, and some of the most important armed organizations that have not yet signed the National Truce Agreement have been absent, of which 10 guerrillas are signatories.

The seven guerrillas of the Federal Policy Negotiating Consultative Committee (FPNCC) have announced that they will not attend the conference because one of its members, the Arakan Army, designated a “terrorist organization” in February, has been excluded. It’s engaged in a fierce war with the Tatmadaw in the state of Arakan (in the west of the country) that escalated from January last year.

Members of the FPNCC include the Wa State Unity Army (UWSA), the largest in the country that is practically an independent mini-state, although it ceased hostilities with the Tatmadaw three decades ago after reaching an unofficial agreement, and the Army of Independence Kachin (KIA), the second-largest, at war since a 17-year truce collapsed in 2011.

Furthermore, one of the greatest obstacles to the peace process is the autonomy enjoyed by the army, which the 2008 constitution designed by the military junta places it outside the control of any civilian government. EFE-EPA


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