First meeting for peace between government, military and rebels set

The summit will be held in Kyaukpadaung, Mandalay, central Myanmar, on 15 October. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Armed Forces commander-in-chief and the representatives of ten militias that signed the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) will be present to discuss the basic principles for a future federal system of government and the policy of one army.

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For the first time since the start of the peace process in 2011, top government and military officials will hold direct talks with armed ethnic groups.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Armed Forces commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the representatives of the ten ethnic armies that signed the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) will meet on 15 October in Kyaukpadaung township, Mandalay region, central Myanmar.

The various delegations will discuss the basic principles for a future federal system of government and the policy of one army.

President’s Office spokesman Zaw Htay on Friday confirmed the participation of Min Aung Hlaing, saying it was “a clear sign that the military’s relations with the government are positive.”

Last week, government officials organised a two-day preliminary meeting between all the parties to underline the importance of the summit on 15 October. It will be the first to be attended by both Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s top military chief. In the past, the rebel armies had only met them separately.

The meeting is also seen as a possibility for peace and coexistence for ethnic groups that have not signed any ceasefire so far.

In leading the National League for Democracy’s main peace effort, the 21st century Panglong Peace Conference, Aung San Suu Kyi is trying to end decades of civil war.

After the first session of August 2016, the government had planned to hold talks every six months. However, violence against Rohingya Muslims and the subsequent humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State as well as the civil strife in Kachin and Shan states had halted the process.

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an umbrella organisation for ethnic militias that have not signed the NCA, has expressed scepticism over the 15 October meeting.

For UNFC chairman Naing Han Thar, a future federal union, especially before the 2020 general elections, is an impossible goal given the power of Myanmar’s military.

Under the county’s current constitution, drafted in 2008 by the junta that governed the country at the time, the military control a quarter of the 440-seat parliament as well as several major ministries, including Defence, Interior and Border Affairs. This gives the military control over security issues and an effective veto power over constitutional change.

During the third session of the Panglong Conference in July, Aung San Suu Kyi called for a new strategic vision to build peace and end the hostilities between the military and ethnic militias.

So far, the parties involved in the talks have agreed on 51 basic principles concerning political, economic and land-related issues, but have not yet reached an agreement on security.