Student army latest to join peace talks

A group of one-time students who fled to the jungle and took up arms following the 1988 uprising in Burma says it has met with government officials across the border in Thailand for talks that could pave the way for a ceasefire.

Representatives from the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) say they will move on to the next step after negotiations in the Thai town of Mae Sot last week. Myo Win, deputy chairman of the group, said union-level talks would follow in Rangoon, although no date has been set.

“We were able to have a forthright discussion and raised opinions that we both agreed upon – from here, we hope that we will get the chance to find an answer to the issues [obstructing] peace making, the ceasefire and political problems.”

At its peak in the 1990s the group had around 10,000 members, and waged guerrilla warfare against the Burmese army largely from the mountains of Karen state in Burma’s east.

The ABSDF has been linked with the Karen struggle ever since its formation in 1988, when thousands of students fled to the jungle and were sheltered by the Karen National Union.

A split in the early 1990s presaged its decline, but last year the group announced it would again fight alongside the KNU against the government.

But the installation of a quasi-civilian government following elections in 2010 has led to attempts by Naypyidaw to broker peace in the border regions. Both the KNU and the Shan State Army have held ceasefires talks that appeared to net something of a result, although fighting has continued.

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