Myanmar leader reshuffles peace team
- Published: 10/05/2012 at 01:48 AM
- Online news:
Myanmar's president has taken charge of peace talks with armed ethnic groups for the first time, his office has said, in a new push to end bloody fighting that has marred recent reforms.
Myanmar President Thein Sein, pictured in April 2012, has taken charge of peace talks with armed ethnic groups for the first time, his office has said, in a new push to end bloody fighting that has marred recent reforms.
Thein Sein was named as chairman of the government negotiating team, in an overhaul that removed elements of the previous delegation seen as obstacles to a deal with fighters in Kachin State in the country's far north.
An order from the president's office, dated May 3 but sent to AFP on Wednesday, said the high-level committee would "work in a leading role during discussions with ethnic armed groups".
The former general, whose exact involvement in the new negotiations was not specified, met leaders of a major ethnic minority group, the Karen National Union (KNU), for the first time in April.
Myanmar has signed tentative ceasefire deals with a number of rebel groups in recent months as it seeks to draw a line under civil conflicts that have racked parts of the country since independence in 1948.
But fighting in Kachin, where a 17-year ceasefire broke down last June, has continued to rage, forcing tens of thousands of civilians from their homes.
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has previously said it lacks confidence in government negotiators and accused the military of planning a large-scale offensive against their stronghold near the border with China.
An end to the violence is a major demand of the international community, which has begun to lift sanctions against the country to reward recent reforms, including the acceptance of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party into parliament.
In January Thein Sein's government said it had told the military to halt all offensives in ethnic minority conflict zones, but violence in the Kachin continued, prompting speculation from observers that the president did not fully control the country's powerful army.
Military chief Min Aung Hlaing, who replaced strongman Than Shwe in the top army position following the transition to nominally-civilian rule last year, has now been included in the high-level delegation for the first time.
The reshuffle also created a 52-member "working committee", led by vice president Sai Mauk Kham which will be responsible for initial talks with the rebels.
This group excludes Aung Thaung, an MP with the ruling army-backed party and former industry minister who was previously in charge of talks with the Kachin but considered by the rebels to be linked to hardliners in the military.
"He is not a part of new team because of a health condition," a government official said.
The working committee will include Railway Minister Aung Min, seen as a pivotal figure in the other ceasefires, including with the KNU which has waged the country's longest-running insurgency.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency