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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora