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Myanmar Offers to Restart Peace Talks With Ethnic Rebels

FILE - Armed soldiers from the United Wa State Army.

FILE - Armed soldiers from the United Wa State Army.

The government in Myanmar, also known as Burma, has offered to restart peace talks with ethnic rebels.

Hla Maung Shwe from the official Myanmar Peace Center tells VOA that the minister responsible for the talks made the offer to the rebel Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), an umbrella group that represents several ethnic groups.

“Minister U Aung Min proposed to resume the peace talks between December 18 to 20. We have learned that the NCCT will meet on December 13 and 14 in Thailand," said Hla Maung Shwe. "So we are going to meet with NCCT leaders on December 15 in Thailand to discuss on the result of their meeting.”

NCCT member Khun Okkar confirms the offer was made, but told VOA the rebels have not yet responded.

“The MPC [Myanmar Peace Center] invited us to arrive on December 17 at the Rangoon MPC office. However, we didn't give any answer since we need to discuss,” said Khun Okkar.

The two sides have met several times since the NCCT was founded in July, but there has been no reported progress.

Earlier this month, 12 of Myanmar's ethnic rebel groups announced the establishment of a federal army, a move opposed by the national government.

The new force, called the Federal Union Army (FUA), will be under the supervision of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an umbrella group of ethnic minorities that is affiliated with the NCCT.

Khun Okkar, who is also co-secretary of the UNFC, told VOA the new force will be vital in national peace efforts.

But last month, Army Chief General Min Aung Hlaing told VOA that Myanmar, like any other country, can only have one national military force.

Most of the ethnic groups in Myanmar have been fighting for decades and currently have separate, temporary cease-fire agreements with the government.

Fighting continues between the government troops and Kachin rebels. Talks between the government and the rebels has been derailed since last month, when government artillery fire killed rebel cadets.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.