(3 Sep 2016) A five-day conference aimed at ending decades of ethnic rebellions in various parts of Myanmar concluded on Saturday in Naypyitaw.
In her closing speech, Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi told delegates that the current government is trying to “be the best government”, and will “dare to lead our people for the peace that they have been wanting for.”
The talks were attended by representatives of 17 of the 20 major ethnic groups, including the Karen, Kachin, Shan and Wa, who make up 40 percent of the country’s population.
The peace talks are called Union Peace Conference – 21 Century Panglong – a reference to the Panglong Agreement brokered in 1947 by Suu Kyi’s late father, independence hero General Aung San, in the town of Panglong, when Myanmar was still ruled by Britain.
The deal granted ethnic minorities autonomy and the right to secede if they worked with the federal government to break away from Britain together.
But Aung San was assassinated the following year and the deal fell apart.
Since then, ethnic groups have accused successive, mostly military, governments of failing to honor the 1947 pact.
The previous military-backed government brokered individual truces with various insurgent groups and oversaw a ceasefire covering eight minor insurgencies last year that fell short of a nationwide deal.
Skirmishes, particularly in northern zones where Kachin insurgents are fighting the army, have displaced more than 100,000 civilians since 2011 alone.
At least 100,000 more have sought refuge in squalid camps in neighbouring Thailand, and are unlikely to return home until true peace takes hold.
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