Representatives of 16 ethnic insurgencies gathered on Tuesday in northern Myanmar for talks on concluding a nation-wide ceasefire with the Central Government.
“We are here to demonstrate our desire to end the civil war,” said Mutu Saepho, chairman of Karen National Union, a rebel group that has waged an insurgency in eastern Myanmar since 1949.
“But we need solid guarantee from Government on the political process,” he said in Laiza, a town in the Kachin State 890 km north of Yangon.
Since coming to power in March 2011, President Thein Sein’s Government has signed bilateral ceasefire agreements with nearly all of the insurgencies and announced plans for a nation-wide accord in early 2014.
The myriad ethnic minority groups have been fighting for semi-autonomy in their traditional territories such as the Karen, Kachin and Mon States for decades.
The rebel groups will seek political solutions to their struggles such as guarantees of rights to control their own natural resources and partial self-rule.
“We need to know exactly what the Government plans to do after we sign the so-called nation-wide ceasefire,” said Major Sai La, spokesman for the Shan State Army.
Representatives of the United Wa State Army, the largest rebel group, will also attend the Laiza meeting, which is due to continue until Friday.
“This is the very first time for such a meeting in Myanmar,” said Lamai Gun Ja, of the Peace Talk Creation Group that plays an intermediary role between the Kachin Independence Organisation and the Government.
“I think it’s very important for our country’s future.” Ending military assaults on ethnic minorities was a key demand among Western democracies when they lifted economic sanctions on Myanmar.