News / Asia

    Burma Ethnic Rebels Cautious About Government Peace Offer

    In this photo taken April 17, 2010, recruits of the Kachin Independence Army, one of Myanmar's largest armed ethnic groups, go through battle drills at a training camp near Laiza in Burma.
    In this photo taken April 17, 2010, recruits of the Kachin Independence Army, one of Myanmar's largest armed ethnic groups, go through battle drills at a training camp near Laiza in Burma.

    Burma’s military-backed government has offered a possible path to peace with ethnic rebel groups who have long fought against central authorities for autonomy. A peace agreement is a key demand of Western nations, including the United States, for improving relations with Burma. Although some people are encouraged by the offer, not all rebel groups are convinced it is genuine.

    The government's new peace offer was disclosed Saturday when an envoy of Burmese President Thein Sein discussed the three-part deal with rebel representatives. The offer calls for a cease-fire, followed by development assistance and then a national conference to discuss political grievances.

    This is the first time that central government authorities have offered to hold political discussions with the rebel groups.  Those who attended the talks say three of the five rebel delegates welcomed the offer.

    Khuensai Jaiyen, editor of the Shan Herald Agency for News, was invited to the meeting as an unpaid advisor for the Shan State Army South. He says the Shan, the Karen National Union, and Chin National Front agreed to the offer, in principal.

    "They expect it to be sort of like the Panlong conference in 1947, where they can talk about full autonomy in their own internal affairs, human rights and democracy, of course," he said.

    The 1947 Panlong conference was launched by democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, and three ethnic groups to reach independence from Britain.

    The Panlong Agreement also resulted in a broad outline for autonomy for the ethnic regions.

    But Aung San’s assassination later that year, the government’s failure to implement the spirit of the agreement, and military rule fueled ethnic rebel uprisings.

    Since then, those ongoing rebellions have been cited by the Burmese government as the reason for having a strong military. Burma’s army has dominated the country for more than half a century.

    David Steinberg, a Burma  analyst at Georgetown  University in Washington D.C., says the fair distribution of power among ethnic groups is the most serious problem facing the country since independence.

    "They’re not doing enough to address that. They’ve rescinded something at least for the moment," he said. "They had this plan for border guard forces, which would integrate the minority armies into the Burma army and basically emasculate them in terms of their ability to revolt against the government. But because of such resistance the new government has shelved that plan."

    Despite continued fighting, the nominally civilian government that took office in March, after decades of overt military rule, promised peace talks.

    But President Thein Sein, himself a former general, told journalists at a press briefing Saturday that negotiations have been difficult.

    He says, because the ethnic minorities have different cultures, different traditions and different goals it is impossible to reach agreement when they hold talks.  He says they have tried before and failed.   He says they talk with them individually and try to find common ground. He says the talks are based on the principles that the rebels accept not to break away from the union and to accept the major guidelines in the 2008 constitution.

    The two rebel groups at the talks that did not agree to the government’s terms are the Karenni National Progressive Party and the Kachin Independence Organization.

    The KIO and government troops have been fighting pitched battles this year in northern Kachin State.

    La Ja, a spokesman for the group, says they are not yet ready to accept the offer. He says this is just an initial meeting and there is no reason to decide whether to accept the government offers.  He says, if the government wants further discussion, they will have the discussion. He says they cannot say anything conclusive at this point because of the whole situation, including the ongoing fighting.

    For the three rebel groups that agreed to the plan, Shan advisor Khuensai Jaiyen says one of the main reasons was the government’s engagement with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi - who he referred to using the honorific "Daw."

    "Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been working quite closely with the present government, especially with the president," he said. "If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi trusts the present government enough, maybe they can also."

    President Thein Sein has held direct talks with Aung San Suu Kyi who is set to re-enter politics after 15 years of house arrest.

    Khuensai says, nonetheless, the rebel groups are still cautious. He says they understand there are risks in dealing with the government, but that they are risks worth taking.


    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora