By May Masangkay
Tokyo, 15 April —Myanmar President Office Minister U Aung Min expressed confidence Wednesday that a peace process between the government and ethnic rebel groups in his country is moving forward, saying a comprehensive cease-fire deal between the two parties could take place by next month.
Visiting Japan on a four-day visit through Friday to explain Myanmar’s peace efforts and thank Tokyo for its instrumental role in the process, U Aung Min said in an interview with Kyodo News that he also hopes to see more of Japan’s support in such efforts.
His remarks came after Myanmar’s government and representatives of 16 ethnic groups signed a draft agreement March 31 for a nationwide cease-fire in a bid to end decades of armed conflict in the country.
“We should be able to sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement formally sometime in May” after leaders of the ethnic groups agree on the draft and hold a political dialogue soon after that, he said.
To help make strides in the peace process, Japan pledged in January last year 10 billion yen ($83.5 million) in aid to Myanmar over the next five years to improve the livelihoods of ethnic minorities in conflict-affected areas.
“We alone cannot solve all the problems related to the peace process. We will be able to do much more effectively if we get assistance from countries like Japan,” U Aung Min said, identifying needs such as building houses for internally displaced persons and creating jobs as areas of cooperation between the two countries.
“With their support, we should be able to achieve sustainable peace,” said the minister who met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday.
U Aung Min also said he wants to “encourage” Japan to send its monitors to his country’s general elections, scheduled around early November, as the United States and European Union plan to send their monitoring teams.
As part of efforts to achieve national reconciliation, the civilian government led by President U Thein Sein has been trying to broker peace deals with all ethnic minority rebel groups in the country since it came to power in 2011. Myanmar has suffered clashes between the government and ethnic rebel forces since the country’s independence in 1948.
“I feel that we have established a sufficient (level of) confidence to overcome all the challenges we may encounter,” said U Aung Min, who plays a key role in the peace process.
“What’s really important is moving encounters or meetings from the battlefield to the table,” he said, highlighting the importance of building trust between the government and ethnic minorities and ensuring the government’s posture is as transparent as possible.
With an eye to making the peace process “very inclusive,” U Aung Min said the government, parliament, ethnic groups, political parties including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, and civil society groups “will be invited to participate in the political dialogue.”
As for the situation in which the current Constitution bars Daw Suu Kyi, regarded as the country’s opposition icon, from running in a presidential election, U Aung Min said if the Constitution is amended, there is still a chance for her to run for presidency.
The Constitution effectively bans Daw Suu Kyi from running for president due to the foreign nationality of immediate members of her family. Her sons have British citizenship, as her late husband was British.—Kyodo
By May Masangkay