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Renewed peace talks between government officials and representatives of ethnic armies appeared to get off to a promising start in Rangoon on Tuesday.
Naypyidaw’s Union Peace-Making Work Committee (UPWC) and the ethnic rebel groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) met for the seventh round of talks that ultimately aim to secure a lasting ceasefire among all of the armed groups of Burma in the form of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
The previous talks broke down at the end of last year when accord on crucial points could not be reached.
NCCT leader Nai Hongsa, in his opening speech at the event, said: “The NCCT have assessed and discussed the National Ceasefire Agreement many times among our members. If a compromise is reached with the government in this round of talks, we are ready to finalise the agreement.”
The issue of conflict reduction across Burma had been one of the eight outstanding points of contention in the process, but Hla Maung Shwe, a senior official in the Myanmar Peace Centre that brokered the talks, told DVB that negotiators reached a broad agreement on the issue early on in the 17 March meeting.
“Within two hours, the negotiators had reached a compromise on the topic of conflict reduction. Rather than focusing on individual incidents such as the Laiza training camp shelling or the ongoing Kokang violence, they instead discussed how to reduce the conflict nationwide.
“The ethnic representatives agreed to compile reports about the said incidents and present them to the UPWC,” said Hla Maung Shwe.
“In my opinion, the NCCT set aside their emotions and did the right thing.”
Remaining outstanding points are reported to include an agreement on a military code of ethics; troop deployment; the use of recruitment drives; and the establishment of a ceasefire monitoring body. These topics are due to be discussed during this round of dialogue, expected to last five or six days.
Four senior officials of the Burmese army also attended the talks, including Lt-Gen Myint Soe of the Bureau of Special Operations.
“To bring an end to the hostility, if all the terms and conditions in the National Ceasefire Agreement are agreed and followed, the perpetual peace that we all envision will be achieved,” said Lt-Gen Myint Soe.
“I would like to urge the representatives of the ethnic armed groups attending the talks today to show patience with one another, and to aim to bring about an outcome in favour of the peace that is longed for by all people of Burma,” he added.
Observers who attended the meeting included members of the All Burma Students Democratic Front; members of the Shan State Army – South; the United Nations Special Envoy to Burma Vijay Nambiar; and Chinese diplomatic representatives.
The talks continue on Wednesday.