Aung San Suu Kyi has instructed a government-appointed peace negotiation body to invite all ethnic armed groups to an upcoming peace conference in Myanmar. The government has been organizing the Union Peace Conference for late August, but has yet to make it clear if ethnic rebel groups that did not sign last year's Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) would be invited.
Although the conference is based on the NCA -- a historic peace deal signed by the previous government and eight rebel groups in October -- Suu Kyi is pushing to invite all stakeholders, the government-owned Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Wednesday.
Zaw Htay, president office spokesperson, said that during a meeting Tuesday of the preparatory committee for the conference in political capital Nay Pyi Taw, Suu Kyi -- a Nobel Peace laureate -- suggested finding the means for all parties to participate.
“Policies outlined at the meeting include works for allowing NCA non-signatory groups to join the conference,” Zaw Htay was quoted as saying.
At least 13 ethnic groups -- including major rebels -- had refused to sign the NCA due to the previous pro-military government’s exclusion of three small groups.
The ex-president’s administration and powerful military had demanded the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army surrender in order to join the process.
The new government's negotiator, Tin Myo Win, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that Suu Kyi “is to discuss with them [representatives of the three groups] in Yangon next week about the new government’s peace policy”.
Although the country’s military chief has vowed to support August's conference to ensure its success, it remains unclear if the three groups would be allowed to join the process.
“We do hope we could find a way for this and they join the 21st century Panglong Peace Conference,” Tin Myo Win said by phone, using the official name for the August meet.
On Wednesday, the Karen National Union -- one of the biggest rebel groups in Myanmar and a signatory to the NCA -- welcomed the government’s effort to include all players in the process.
“All-inclusiveness would make the country a step closer to end the civil war,” joint secretary Phado Saw Kwe Htoo Win told Anadolu Agency by phone.
Ethnic rebels have been fighting Myanmar's central government and military for greater autonomy and self-administration since the country’s independence from Britain in 1948.
Suu Kyi has made peace and national reconciliation a priority of her National League for Democracy government, which took over in late March following the Nov. 8 election victory.
In 1947, her father, Gen. Aung San, signed the Panglong Agreement with leaders of Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minorities in a conference in Panglong town in Shan state to grant them autonomy.
Aung San was then the deputy chairman of Burma’s Executive Council -- effectively a prime ministerial position, but still subject to the British governor’s veto.
His assassination in July 1947 prevented the agreements from reaching fruition, and many ethnic groups took up arms against the central government in wars that continued for decades and took Burma (which became Myanmar) into what became known as "the world’s longest civil war".