Myanmar rebels: 'Peace by 2015'
- Published: 2 Nov 2013 at 16.23
- Online news:
LAIZA, MYANMAR - Ethnic rebel groups on Saturday predicted that Myanmar could look forward to peace by 2015 if the government agrees to their nationwide ceasefire terms.
Soldiers from the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF) march during the movement's 25th anniversary celebration in Janghtung, near Laiza in Kachin State on Friday. (EPA Photo)
"If negotiations on the ceasefire draft are approved, gunshots will no longer be heard after 2015," said Khun Oakka, the spokesman for a conference of 18 ethnic minority rebel groups that have been meeting in Laiza, 890 kilometres north Yangon, since Wednesday.
On Saturday the groups finalised a nine-point draft nationwide ceasefire plan which they will present to government leaders on Monday and Tuesday in Myintkyina, the capital of Kachin state.
"This is an historic moment and the first time we can hope to end the civil war," Khun Oakka said, while acknowledging that there was still a lot to negotiate to reach an agreement with the government.
The government of reform-minded President Thein Sein, which came to power in March 2011 after Myanmar's first elections in 20 years, has signed separate ceasefires with 14 of the country's ethnic rebel groups.
Some of the groups, including the Karen, have been fighting since 1949, the year after Myanmar, then known as Burma, became independent from Britain, for semi-autonomy for ethnic minorities in their traditional territories.
Thein Sein has called for a nationwide ceasefire signed by all the rebel groups, to be followed within 60 days by political talks on how to settle the issue of semi-autonomous rule in the ethnic minority territories.
It is hoped the ethnic minority conflicts can be resolved peacefully before the next general election in 2015.
The insurgents have demanded that any nationwide ceasefire must be signed by the army commander-in-chief and the leaders of all political parties, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Kachin Independence Organization, which has yet to sign a ceasefire agreement with the government, has agreed to sign the nationwide ceasefire together with the other ethnic rebel groups.
Sources said the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), which did not officially join the Laiza conference, were also expected to sign the nationwide ceasefire.
Western democracies made ending government attacks on the rebel groups a condition last year for ending their sanctions on Myanmar.