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Burma’s central government agrees to the principle of establishing a federal union in the country, according to officials emerging from negotiations between a government delegation and ethnic leaders in Rangoon on Friday.
Speaking at a post-summit press conference, Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Center, which is hosting the two-day peace talks, said, “The proposal raised by the ethnic side was to establish a union based on federalism. The UPWC [government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee] agreed in principle to implement the idea – a state based on federalism.”
He said that the government advocated that such a federal union would be based on whatever agreements were made during the period of political dialogue, which is due to begin within 90 days of a nationwide ceasefire being signed.
“The ethnic leaders accepted this proposal. So it is agreed,” he said. “This is the main issue, so I hope most of the other points fall into place.”
Representing the ethnic alliance Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), Vice-chairman Nai Hongsa said the UPWC had accepted the principle of establishing a federal union based on democracy, ethnic equality and self-determination.
“The government delegation agreed with our proposal that we should establish a federal union in Burma based on ethnic equality, democracy and self-determination, a matter the ethnic side believes is most important,” he said. “However, we have not yet reached a stage of agreement on every issue. We have just started discussions and have covered only sections one and two [of the proposed draft for a ceasefire].”
In his opening speech at the conference on Friday, UPWC Vice-chairman Aung Min said he hopes the two-day meeting will produce “positive results”.
Ahead of the summit, Nai Hongsa said the ethnic delegation wished to focus on policy issues rather than the wording of the proposal.
“Democracy, ethnic equality and self-determination, these are the important priorities on the agenda,” he said. “The formation of a federal army within a federal state is also a necessity for the sustainability of the Union.”
Negotiations were continuing on Saturday.
This round of talks marks the fifth meeting between the NCCT and UPWC since May. Several observers said they view this conference as pivotal in the quest for a nationwide ceasefire.
Many of the ethnic representatives at the negotiations represent armed groups that have been involved in a civil conflict against Burmese government forces since the late 1940s.