Shan army ‘ready for govt talks’

The opposition Shan State Army will come to the negotiating table, but only once a formal invitation is sent by Naypyidaw, the group said, marking perhaps the first step in an effort to end renewed fighting in eastern Burma.

It comes on the heels of other offers of “peace talks” to warring rebels groups in the country’s border regions. Burma’s periphery, from Mon state to Kachin state in the north, has been beset by heavy fighting since elections last year.

Major Sai Lao Hseng, spokesperson of the Shan State Army’s (SSA) political wing, the Shan State Restoration Council, said that only an official offer of dialogue would be accepted.

“We would like the government to make an official proposal with official representatives and then we could engage in peace talks after hearing the government’s demands.”

Naypyidaw’s approach to the SSA reportedly went via government-affiliated militia groups in Shan state. It has also sent high-level delegations to the Wa and Mongla ethnic groups in northern Shan state, and a state-level delegation to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

Earlier this week the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) responded to similar offers of talks by demanding that dialogue only takes place if the government agrees to negotiate with an alliance of ethnic armies, and not individual groups.

Both the KNLA and the KIA are part of the 12-member United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), as well as the armed New Mon State Party (NMSP). The spokesperson of the NMSP, Nai Hongsar, also stated that the group would only negotiate as part of the alliance.

President Thein Sein’s political advisor, Nay Zin Latt, recently travelled to Indonesia. Billed as a ‘study’ visit, the delegation sought to get to grips with Indonesia’s transition from military rule and cessation of conflicts with ethnic minority groups – something the new Burmese government has pledged as a goal.

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