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Myanmar Cease-fire Talks Collapse

Myanmar President Thein Sein (C) speaks at the opening of a meeting for a Nationwide Cease-fire Agreement (NCA) between representatives of the Myanmar government and leaders of armed ethnic groups, in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, Sept. 9, 2015.

Nationwide cease-fire talks in Myanmar have collapsed, with a majority of the country's armed ethnic groups refusing to sign a deal.

The government and representatives of 17 ethnic groups had been meeting in northern Thailand in hopes of securing a deal in time for general elections scheduled for November. But Wednesday, 10 of the groups announced they would not sign.

Saw Kwe Htoo Win, General-Secretary Karen National Union (KNU), which was one of the seven that agreed to sign, said the government needs to change its approach.

"All groups in principle accept the idea to sign the Nationwide Cease-fire Agreement. But the difference is when each group will be ready to sign it. For all groups to sign the agreement, there will have to be a change in the government's policy," he said. "We will have to try to persuade the government make changes. At present, that is not happening."

One of the policies Saw Kwe Htoo Win was referring to is the government's refusal to negotiate with any ethnic group that has battled the military within the past year. Among these groups are the Kokang and the Arakan State Army.

Earlier this month, Myanmar President Thein Sein met with rebel groups and said a nationwide cease-fire deal is critical if the country wants to see further democratic reforms.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi this month called on rebel leaders not to rush into a hasty deal, saying the most important issue was to ensure future stability.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has seen more than 65 years of clashes between its government and rebel groups trying to secure autonomy in many border regions.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese Service.