By Aung Hla Tun
YANGON (Reuters) - Three ethnic armed groups have called on the Myanmar government to include them in talks on a ceasefire being negotiated with other groups, after they had been excluded following clashes with the army near the border with China earlier this year.
Myanmar President Thein Sein on Wednesday met leaders of five main ethnic guerrilla groups for ceasefire talks in the capital Naypyitaw. They agreed to hold another round of talks on the draft of the deal in early October.
The exclusion of the Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta'ang National Liberation Army from the signing has been one of the main stumbling blocks in the negotiations that have dragged on for some two years.
"The nationwide ceasefire agreement is a crucial accord for the emergence of genuine peace in the country," said the three armies in a joint statement issued late on Thursday, demanding that they too are included in the deal.
Tension between Myanmar's ethnic minorities and the majority Burmese, who dominate the government, has prompted many groups to take up arms since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948.
The three armies that put out the statement have been fighting the government in the restive Kokang region since February, killing scores of soldiers and causing thousands of citizens to flee the region to China.
Aung Naing Oo, director of the Myanmar Peace Centre which coordinates the talks, said that ethnic armed organizations and the government had submitted different lists of signatories for the ceasefire accord proposed by the government.
He said the government is refusing to recognize the three armies fighting the government in Kokang.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week urged the rebels not to rush the deal, but work slowly on a pact to ensure lasting peace and stability. She said all groups should be included in the accord.
(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)