Gov’t, ethnic armed group and political party representatives attend peace and national reconciliation forum in Yangon

KNU Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Po addresses Peace and National  Reconciliation Forum in Yangon on Saturday. The forum is aimed at  starting preparations for holding rounds of political dialogue before the 2015 national poll.
KNU Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Po addresses Peace and National Reconciliation Forum in Yangon on Saturday. The forum is aimed at starting preparations for holding rounds of political dialogue before the 2015 national poll.

Representatives of the Myanmar government, ethnic armed groups and political parties gathered Saturday in Yangon for the first coordination meeting of signatories to the Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation signed in February.
The forum, aimed at improving the draft of a National Ceasefire Agreement, also included some non-signatory ethnic armed organizations and political parties, as well as ethnic affairs ministers and civil society organizations.
In his welcome speech, Saw Mutu Sae Po, Chairman of the Karen National Union, a signatory to the Deed of Commitment and one of the organizers of the forum, said stakeholders must keep their promises and back up their words with action.
The signatories must “build a culture to realize the pledges and open the way for an inclusive and harmonious future for the good of the country,” the KNU chairman said.
Only the political course can achieve a democratic federal system that guarantees self-determination for ethnic groups, as more than 60 years of armed struggle have created many losers and few winners, he said.
The Deed of Commitment calls for a preliminary rounds of political talks before the 2015 general elections, with all of the forum attendees agreeing on the need for such talks before and after the national poll and forming a Coordination Team for Peace and National Reconciliation in order to realize the pledges in the deed of commitment.
Union Minister U Aung Min, the vice-chairman of Union Peace-Making Work Committee, which represents the government in peace talks with the ethnic armed groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, stated Nay Pyi Taw’s commitment to implementing the pledges.
“It is undeniable that everyone’s wish is peace,” the Union minister said.
The forum was organized by the KNU and the Restoration Council of the Shan State, political wing of Shan State Army, bringing government representatives led by the Union Ministers, ethnic affairs ministers, leaders and representatives from seven armed groups and 64 political parties and 27 responsible persons from CSOs.
The country’s peace process is progressing with the signing of the approved ceasefire deal draft between the government’s UPWC and NCCT of ethnic armed groups on 31 March.
Indicating its readiness to sign the accord as soon as possible, the government side says it is now waiting for the approval of ethnic leaders on the deal.
“NCCT’s Ethnic Conference that will gather all ethnic group leaders including non-NCCT members to discuss and approve the draft deal will take place in the third week of this May at one of three tentative places, and Lokhella is expected to host the conference”, said Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, one of the NCCT leaders.
Since August 2011, the government initiated peace talks with all non-state actors and had reached bilateral agreements with 14 while getting discussions under way with two. Following 16 months of peace negotiations, the UPWC and NCCT formed and signed the single text document for nationwide ceasefire.

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