Representatives from the Burmese government, parliament, military and political parties held quadripartite talks today at President Thein Sein’s residence in Naypyidaw. Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party have been urging the government to hold a quadripartite meeting for a long time now, but it wasn’t until this week that Thein Sein announced his decision to host the four-party talks.
In a press conference following the meeting, Information Minister Ye Htut said the discussion was designed to address political issues—including democratic reforms; constitutional amendments; and the ongoing peace process between ethnic groups and the government.
Ye Htut also said that President Thein Sein prioritized three key issues at the meeting.
“The president prioritized three topics during the meeting: first, to ensure the continuation of democratic reforms…and develop an open and independent Burmese society; second, to ensure a lasting national reconciliation based on positive developments that have already been achieved in the peace process; and third, to maintain the country’s current political stability and ensure a successful general election in 2015, which is an important step in Burma’s democratic reforms.”
With regard to constitutional amendments, however, Ye Htut simply reiterated the government’s position that amendments must be passed in accordance with procedures set forth in the constitution and must be consistent with constitutional provisions, one of which bars Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president.
When asked by DVB whether a genuine dialogue took place today, Suu Kyi indicated that the meeting was organized in a way that merely allowed the parties to repeat their previously-stated positions and enabled the government to reaffirm certain issues upon which everyone has already agreed.
“The four parties at the meeting were each given 10 minutes to express their thoughts, and in the end the representatives were asked if there were any general issues they wanted to discuss. This was not the kind of quadripartite meeting we envisioned,” she said.
Although the meeting did not yield any substantial breakthroughs, Ye Htut described today’s meeting as an important “trust-building measure.” He said the parties agreed to meet again and implored the participants to exercise patience, understanding and forgiveness.
Another point of agreement, according to the information minister, was that all parties said they were focused on improving the country’s socio-economic level and ensuring that the 2015 elections are free and fair.
Regarding the peace process, Ye Htut said the Burmese government had stressed the importance of signing a nationwide ceasefire at an early date (i.e. by the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015) and drafting a framework for political dialogue to ensure that dialogue between the government and ethnic groups continues regardless of who wins the 2015 elections.