Myanmar's government, rebels sign draft ceasefire deal
Iran Press TV
Tue Mar 31, 2015 3:19PM
Myanmar's government and representatives of over a dozen major armed rebel groups have signed a draft ceasefire deal that aims to end decades of civil war in the country.
Speaking at the deal signing ceremony in the capital, Yangon, on Tuesday, President Thein Sein said the deal was the first step toward political dialogue with the armed groups.
"The people need peace, they desire peace and they expect peace," Sein told representatives of the 16 major ethnic minority armed groups, adding, "After that is signed, the road is open for political dialogue. This action will ensure the peace builders a place in Myanmar's history."
Reports say a full ceasefire agreement can only be officially signed after further consultation and an upcoming conference of the ethnic armed groups.
Meanwhile, Vijay Nambiar, the UN special adviser on Myanmar, who has acted as an observer to months of the peace negotiations, said in a statement that the tentative deal was a "milestone" for the country.
"For the government of Myanmar and 16 ethnic armed groups to reach a ceasefire agreement after more than sixty years of conflict is a historic and significant achievement," the statement read.
The UN official, however, added that "many concerns and difficulties" remain.
The military-dominated parliamentary government and the rebels have held several rounds of peace talks since 2013. The government hopes to have a final deal in place by the end of 2015.
The negotiations have become complicated by renewed fighting in the Kokang region of Shan State, where ethnic Chinese rebels have engaged in fierce battle with Myanmar's troops since February.
The Kokang rebels are not part of the peace negotiations. They are formally known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). The Kokang inhabits a self-administered area on the restive Myanmar-China border.
The conflict in Myanmar has displaced tens of thousands of people along the border on Myanmar's side. At least 30,000 civilians have also fled the country across the border into southwestern China.
The violence threatens to undermine the reforms undertaken by President Sein, whose nominally civilian government took power in 2011 following decades of direct military rule.
Myanmar has been wracked by unrest since independence from Britain in 1948 as insurgencies flared among minority groups demanding greater autonomy. The country has seen more than 65 years of clashes between the government and rebel groups trying to secure autonomy in many border regions.
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