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Myanmar government, rebels move to end 60-year conflict

RIA Novosti

17:00 12/01/2012

BANGKOK, January 12 (RIA Novosti) - The government of Myanmar and the rebel Karen National Union (KNU), one of the world's longest-running insurgencies, signed on Thursday a ceasefire agreement that is seen as a first step toward a lasting peace, the Bangkok Post said.

The signing ceremony took place in the Karen State capital Hpa-an.

"The president has said we brothers have been angry at each other for 63 years and he asked us to give the KNU what they want. That's why we came here," the newspaper quoted Immigration Minister Khin Yi as telling journalists before the pact was signed.

An estimated 500,000 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced as a result of the KNU’s armed rebellion for the independence of the eastern Karen Region populated by the Karen ethnic minority between the late 1940s and the mid-1990s.

Although the armed conflict has since vanished, there has been no formal peace agreement between the central government and the rebels, who have maintained control of Karen State.

The Myanmar government has declared the deal with the rebels as a major step towards peace, but the KNU has downplayed it as “preliminary discussions” on how to reach real peace with the central authorities, according to the DPA news agency.

Ahead of the singing ceremony, a leading KNU member known as Brigadier General Johnny expressed optimism over the agreement, saying: “This time they didn't ask us to give up our arms, they just want to work for equal rights for ethnic groups,” he was quoted by AFP as saying. “This time we trust them.”

But he added “We have been fighting for 60 years and one meeting alone will not end it.”

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