Suu Kyi urges rebels to sign peace deal after clashes

Myanmar's de-factor leader says peace talks only way to end armed conflict after fatal clashes with ethnic rebels in Shan

Suu Kyi urges rebels to sign peace deal after clashes

World Bulletin / News Desk

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called on ethnic armed groups to join the peace process after a new round of clashes left seven civilians dead near the country’s northern border with China.

At least 12 people have died amid ongoing fighting in restive Shan State since Sunday, when an alliance of four ethnic rebel groups attacked military checkpoints, police stations and the 105th Mile Trade Zone in Muse district.

More than 33,000 people in the area have fled to Muse town to escape the fighting between government troops and rebels, according to the government Thursday.

The groups involved in the clashes did not sign up to last year's government-sponsored Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

State-run media cited a statement from the State Counselor Office saying that the government “is keeping the peace door open to welcome all relevant stakeholders for participation in the peace process”.

“In order to immediately end the armed conflict in north-east Shan State, I strongly urged the armed groups to join the peace process by signing the NCA,” State Counselor Suu Kyi said in the statement.

Suu Kyi warned the rebels that taking up arms to solve political issues only “causes protracted armed conflicts”, with people in affected regions suffering and lagging behind economic development enjoyed by neighboring countries.

“Arms will not resolve the issues nor bring about the desired goals of the people,” she said, describing the 21st Century Panlong Conference peace talks as the only way by which to end all armed conflicts countrywide and to establish “perpetual peace”.

Myanmar is set to hold a second meeting of the Union Peace Conference -- dubbed the 21st Century Panlong Conference -- in January 2017.

The groups involved in the fighting in Shan -- the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Taung National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA) -- did not sign the NCA under the previous government.

The political arm of the KIA, however, did take part in the Conference in August -- the first major peace talk under Suu Kyi’s government.

The AA, MNDAA and TNLA were banned from the talks and continue to be classified as "terrorists" as the government says they refused to lay down arms prior to Panglong.

The KIA said Wednesday that the alliance launched just “a limited joint-offensive” in Shan, and would not let it harm the national reconciliation and peace process.

The rebels have accused the military of attempting to wipe out all armed ethnic and political causes, claiming they have no interest in peaceful political negotiation.

A joint statement issued by the groups Monday claimed the assault was inevitable due to the military's disinterest in peaceful negotiation.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) -- an umbrella association of 11 ethnic rebel groups -- told Anadolu Agency that the latest fighting was making the peace talks “more complicated and difficult”.

He highlighted, however, that Suu Kyi's government had failed to stop growing military offensives in rebel-controlled areas since it took power earlier this year.

“This is the consequences of the government’s ignorance of the military offensive in jungle,” UNFC Secretary Naing Hanthat said by phone.

Since independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar (then Burma) has seen over a half-century of armed conflict, with ethnic rebels embarking on a longstanding battle for greater autonomy and self-administration.

On replacing the military junta in 2011, former President Thein Sein’s administration started peace talks with rebels, which led to the NCA with eight of 21 ethnic groups in October 2015.

However, several major rebel groups -- including the powerful KIA -- refrained.

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Last Mod: 24 Kasım 2016, 10:15
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