Leading members of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) discussed ways they could collectively urge the central government to open a political dialogue with Burma’s myriad ethnic armed groups during their first official meeting in Rangoon on Wednesday.
According to SNLD spokesperson Sai Lek, the two sides agreed that the current ceasefire signed by the SSA-S would remain tentative if the political causes that led to the conflict were not addressed.
“The ceasefire would not be sustainable without implementing a political dialogue since there will be no mutual trust,” said Sai Lek.
“Once the dialogue begins, the level of trust between the two sides will increase – allowing for a more substantial peace [process].”
The talks between the groups comes on the heels of the SSA-S’s historic sit down with President Thein Sein in the country’s capital on Monday, where the two sides discussed ways to increase mutual trust.
The SNLD party’s chairman Khun Htun Oo, deputy-chair Saw Aung and secretary Sai Nyunt Lwin were in attendance at yesterday’s meeting alongside the armed group’s commander Yawd Serk and advisor Khunsai Jaiyen.
“This is the first meeting between the [SSA-S] and the SNLD. Although we employ different procedures; as one is an armed group and the other a political party, we both have a very similar political motive which is to develop a genuine federal union,” said Sai Lek.
During the meeting, the two sides also talked about ways to support Shan displaced inside Burma and those living abroad as refugees.
“We discussed assisting Shan people living abroad to return home for the nationwide census in 2014 and get registered, as well as to grant ID cards for those who don’t have them yet, and to bring freedom for all prisoners jailed on political grounds.”
There are currently 36 SSA-S troops and four Shan State Army-North soldiers incarcerated in Burmese prisons, according to the spokesperson.
Under Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian rule, the government has succeeded in signing ceasefires with 11 of the country’s major armed groups. However, analysts say the deals will remain fragile until the government commences a political dialogue and offers Burma’s ethnic minorities greater autonomy.
During peace talks with the Kachin Independence Army in late May, President’s Office Minister Aung Min hinted that Thein Sein was planning to hold a conference with the country’s armed groups in the next couple of months to begin addressing the political issues at the heart of the country’s myriad civil wars.