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Leading representatives of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), the Shan State Army- South (SSA-S), and the Shan State Army- North (SSA-N) are set to meet in Bangkok for talks on Thursday.
The objective of the meeting among the rival Shan groups is to establish common ground on various issues with a long-term goal aimed at unity, said SNLD spokesman Sai Leik.
“The agenda will be to firstly analyse the current peace process; secondly to discuss how we will approach the 2015 elections; and thirdly, the two political parties will discuss their proposed amendments to the electoral law,” he told DVB. “A final step would be the agreed coalition of both armed groups and both political parties.”
He added: “All [Shan] leaders realise that unity is now a necessary step. Many grassroots organisations have urged the sides to settle their differences and look towards a merger.”
The meeting was set for Bangkok because some Shan representatives expressed difficulties in travelling to Rangoon, he said.
The SSA-S was recently involved in an armed clash with the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation over a territory dispute. Both sides sat for talks on 11 September at the SSA headquarters in Loi Taileng, but no conclusive agreement was made.
The SSA-S has long said that it will not fully adhere to any nationwide ceasefire agreement, but would instead work towards a separate peace deal with the Burmese government.
The SSA-N, on the other hand, signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in January 2012. Despite this truce, clashes have continued between SSA-N forces and Burmese troops to date.
In May, the SNDP and the SNLD – the two major political parties in eastern Burma’s Shan State – reached a preliminary agreement at a merger.
Sai Maung Tin, a lower house parliamentarian representing the SNDP, told DVB at the time that the two parties still had some differences in policy, but were optimistic that an agreement would be reached in time to contest the 2015 elections.
“We are seeing a merger on the horizon – both parties have principally agreed on the plan – but implementation will have to be done step by step,” he said. “We still need to negotiate on policy, mainly on the structure of the Union — whether we will support an eight-unit or a 14-unit federal union.”