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Parliamentarians to meet with armed groups

The Shan State Army-South are scheduled to hold further peace talks with the government representatives on 19 May, where they will push for the release of nearly 100 of the group’s members that are imprisoned.

SSA-S spokesperson Major Sai Lao Hseng said the group’s peace delegation would meet with their government counterparts in the eastern Shan state town of Kengtung on Saturday.

“We are compiling a list of our [SSA-S] officials and soldiers, as well as civilians arrested for alleged connections with us prior to [signing] the ceasefire,” said Sai Lao Hseng.

The talks are part of a tour that parliamentarians from the National Race Affairs Committee and Internal Peace-Making Joint-Committee will be making through ethnic regions stricken by armed-conflict in the coming months.

The committee members will hold talks with representatives in Kachin and Shan state during the interim period before the parliament’s fourth session commences in July.

“Our teams will be meeting with Chief Ministers in the administrative regions and states, as well as, local influential figures and [discuss matters] relating to the armed-groups,” said parliamentarian Sai Maung Tin, who is a member of the joint-committee.

Currently, there are nearly 100 SSA-S affiliates in prison, including more than 30 soldiers from Brigade-246 who were arrested after surrendering to government troops after fighting broke out in northern Shan state’s Namhkam district in 2006.

Civilians that were accused of working as informers and supporters of the group at time were also arrested in Namhkam.

The SSA-S reached a tentative ceasefire with the government in January.

Despite the J agreement, skirmishes have continued to break out between the SSA-S and government troops.

According to the rebel army, there have been 17 clashes with the Burmese Army since signing the ceasefire.

While the government continues to hold peace talk with armed groups, ethnic minority leaders are asking the international community to prudently observe developments within Burma before dropping sanctions.

New Mon State Party general secretary and United Nationalities Federal Council spokesperson Nai Hongsa said the international community should reconsider revoking sanctions placed on Burma if the Burmese Army’s military offensive in Kachin State continues.

“In our perspective, the government is working on the reforms with the aim to gain sympathy and support from the international community, [which would lead] to the lifting of the sanctions,” said Nai Hongsa.

“Some nations have lifted or suspended sanctions without looking at the long-term and we would like to point out that now is not [quite] the time.”

He said one of the reasons the Burmese Army is continuing their military offence in Kachin state was to protect Chinese investments in the region.

“The offensive is to protect foreign investments such as the oil and gas pipelines and hydropower plants that are being constructed,” said Nai Hongsa. “Today, our ethnic nationalities are killing each other to protect foreign interests in our country and we see that’s as a bad sign.”

Several western leaders said earlier in the year that an end to internal conflicts and release of political prisoners would dictate their decisions on sanctions.

However, after the country’s historic by-elections, the EU, Australia, Norway and Switzerland have all dropped or suspended sanctions as fighting continues in Kachin state and more than 400 political prisoners remain locked up in Burma.


-Nang Mya Nadi, Naw Noreen and Ko Htwe contributed reporting



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