Leading officials from 11 political parties based in Burma concluded talks on Saturday with representatives of ethnic armed groups, as well as exiled political groups and civic society organisations, in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.
Discussions at the meeting on 22- 23 November, which was hosted by the Myanmar Peace Centre, focused on the current peace process and ongoing negotiations between the ethnic rebels and the Burmese government.
At the opening speech of the conference, Zaw Aye Maung of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party said, “We are looking at candid discussions on Burma’s democratic reforms, how they are taking place and where they lead to, and what the challenges are, and ways to deal with them.”
Sai Nyunt Lwin, the general secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, said, “This meeting was mainly to exchange points of views. It doesn’t involve making agreements or putting signatures to anything. Instead we are aiming to learn different perspectives. It is inevitable that we have to meet each other while we are introducing a multi-party democratic system to our country. It’s better we meet sooner rather than later.”
Chin National Party Chairman Zozam told DVB as he arrived at Chiang Mai International Airport on Thursday that a meeting with the armed groups was something he never dreamed would happen.
“This is something we couldn’t even dream of and it signifies that political changes are taking place [in Burma] – by allowing political leaders in the country to meet with their brothers and sisters in exile. While it might not be considered substantial, the opportunity to meet with the exiled activists is priceless,” said Zozam.