Ethnic rebels meet Myanmar officials
- Published: 5 Nov 2013 at 06.35
- Online news:
MYITKYINA, Myanmar - Ethnic rebel groups in Myanmar are meeting negotiators from the government Monday in a northern part of the country, presenting their position with the aim of pushing the ongoing peace process forward.
Leaders and representatives of 16 ethnic rebel groups arrived Sunday in Myitkyina, the capital of the country's northern Kachin State, to meet the government's negotiation team is led by President Office Minister Aung Min.
This is the first peace talks held in the country between government negotiators and such a large number of rebel groups. Vijay Nambier, special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Myanmar, and Chinese officials also attended it as observers.
The meeting follows a four-day conference held through Saturday in Laiza, a town near the Chinese border, where ethnic rebels had reached an agreement on an 11-point common negotiation position for talks with the government on signing a proposed nationwide ceasefire agreement.
Most of the rebel groups gathering in Myitkyina, except the Kachins, have already reached cease-fire agreements with the government.
Naing Han Tha, the general secretary of the an influential ethnic rebel alliance, the United Nationalities Federal Council, told reporters after the first day of the meeting Monday he is encouraged by an initial response from the government team for agreeing to most of the 11-point common position tabled by the rebel groups, although details are yet to be discussed.
There are still some points the government could not agree with the rebels but consensus could be reached if the talks continue, he said.
Their common position includes proposals for transforming the country into a federal system that would allow ethnic minorities to maintain independent authority within their own territories, and to have a framework for political dialogue, before signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement.
The government is urging the rebels to agree to the nationwide cease-fire by the end of this month, before holding further negotiations over the framework for nationwide political dialogue.
Hkun Myint Tun, general secretary of the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation, said the rebels believe the government is committed to holding political dialogue, which the rebels never had a chance when the country was under military rule for the past five decades.
"The military government officially announced in 1990 that they do not hold political dialogues with any (rebel) groups, reasoning they are not a political organisation.... we were not able to have such discussions," he said.
Hla Maung Shwe, a member of the government team told local media the team would respond if they can agree to nine points of the rebel's Laiza common position.