Myanmar’s incoming government will work hard to build peace with separatist ethnic armies left out of a cease-fire agreement signed in October, National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in a speech at the opening of a peace conference held in the capital Naypyitaw on Tuesday.
“We are ready to work for a lasting peace according to the mandate that the people gave us,” said Aung San Suu Kyi whose party swept national polls in a landslide victory Nov. 8 and will form a new government sometime early this year.
“We urgently need national reconciliation,” Aung San Suu Kyi said, taking part for the first time in peace talks in Myanmar. “We can’t build a long-term peace without it.”
“In the past, we attained our independence [from colonial power Britain] by working together with all ethnic groups,” Aung San Suu Kyi said, adding, “We can’t build a real democratic federal union now unless all ethnic groups work together with understanding, trust, and love for each other.”
Nearly 800 people took part in the first day of the planned three-day meeting, including representatives from Myanmar’s government and military, political parties, and armed ethnic groups, sources said.
Speaking as the conference opened, outgoing Myanmar president Thein Sein called the gathering an important step forward in building peace in the formerly military-ruled Southeast Asian nation.
“We will gather facts and information from our discussions and carry them forward to another peace conference to be held during the new government’s term in office,” Thein Sein said.
“For now, we can say that we are building a good foundation for the next conference,” he said.
'Door always open'
A peace deal signed in October with Myanmar’s military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) was boycotted by seven of 15 ethnic groups that have battled Myanmar’s central government for decades in a bid for greater autonomy.
These groups were pointedly invited in speeches at the conference to join in building peace as Myanmar now enters a new era of political reform.
“The door is always open for them to sign the NCA [National Ceasefire Agreement],” military chief Min Aung Hlaing said in opening remarks at the conference.
“I hope that these groups will be able to cooperate to work for peace in the future, just as the government, the military, political parties, and some ethnic groups and individuals are working together for peace now,” one conference participant told RFA’s Myanmar Service in a telephone interview.
“If they cooperate with others, I think that we will reach our goal,” Sai Pho Aung of the Shan National Democratic Party said.
“But a new government will take office in the nation soon, and everything will depend on how this new government leads the country.”
Reported by Myo Thant Khaine, Win Ko Ko Lat, Win Naung Toe, and Thinn Thiri for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.