Myanmar says will make 'all necessary compromises' for peace

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 21, 2012 6:53 PM
Myanmar says will make 'all necessary compromises' for peace

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Myanmar is willing to make "all necessary compromises" to broker peace with ethnic minority rebel groups, including amendments to the constitution on power and resource sharing, the government's top negotiator said at the United Nations on Friday.

Aung Min, a minister in President Thein Sein's office, is pursuing complex political negotiations with at least 10 ethnic minority rebel groups with which the government has agreed ceasefires after decades of conflict under military rule.

Conflicts between government forces and ethnic minority rebels have simmered in the resource-rich former Burma. Western countries have made ceasefires one of their conditions for lifting economic and political sanctions imposed on Myanmar over the years.

"We're willing to make all necessary compromises to bring peace to the country," Aung Min told reporters.

"The power and resource sharing mechanisms are clearly outlined in the constitution. If the ethnic minority groups are not happy with the existing procedure the government is willing to consider amending the constitution," he said.

Thein Sein has said second-stage peace talks would include possible amendments to a 2008 army-drafted constitution that gives the military wide-ranging powers, including the ability to appoint key cabinet members, take control of the country in a state of emergency and occupy a quarter of parliament seats.

Aung Min said the Kachin Independence Army had yet to agree to a ceasefire, but he believed a deal could be reached by December when the government is due to meet the United Nationalities Federal Council, an alliance of ethnic groups.

"I'm very convinced we will be able to achieve a ceasefire agreement (with the Kachin) beforehand," he said.

Thein Sein has ordered troops in Kachin State not to attack the rebels, but they can defend themselves. The conflict resurfaced in June 2011, scuttling a 16-year truce and displacing an estimated 50,000 people.

"The reason there is still fighting between Kachin and government troops is because troops from both sides are located immediately next to each other," Aung Min said. "If we can relocate or redeploy troops from both sides, if we can set them apart ... the fighting will stop automatically."

The government wants to broker peace with all the ethnic groups before planned 2015 elections.

"We will do whatever is necessary to complete the peace process before 2015," he said. "We don't want to leave it to the next government. We have encouraged all these ethnic groups to form political parties and to run in the upcoming elections."

Aung Min also said the government had set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate an outbreak of violence in June between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Muslim Rohingyas that killed 80 people and displaced thousands.

The commission would look at how further violence could be prevented, which includes examining the status of the ethnic minorities, he said. The report is due November 16 and the government would try to implement its recommendations, Aung Min said.

A high-level meeting on Myanmar will be held on September 28 on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly session in New York to discuss progress made on reforms and to encourage the government to continue to democratize, U.N. diplomats say.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)