Building peace in Myanmar with separatist ethnic armies left out of a cease-fire agreement signed in October will be the “first priority” of the country’s new government when it takes office early this year, National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in a speech Monday.
“The new government’s first priority will be building peace,” the veteran democracy activist said in a speech in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon during celebrations marking Myanmar’s independence in 1947 from former colonial power Britain.
“We must all try to build a real federal democracy union,” Suu Kyi said.
A peace deal signed with Myanmar’s military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in October was boycotted by seven of 15 ethnic groups that have battled Myanmar’s central government for decades in a bid for greater autonomy.
Three rebel armies—the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA)—have since vowed support for Suu Kyi’s NLD, which swept national polls in a landslide victory Nov. 8 amid renewed fighting in eastern parts of the country during the last few months.
'A stronger union'
“I want to see a stronger union when we celebrate next year’s Independence Day,” Suu Kyi said. “We have many people who are willing to help us, but we ourselves are the ones who must struggle [to accomplish this].”
Myanmar’s new NLD-led government will take office in February at the earliest, and though the party has won a majority in parliament and will be able to select the country’s new president, Aung San Suu Kyi herself is barred from the post by a provision in Myanmar’s military-drafted 2008 constitution.
Military officers meanwhile continue to hold 25 percent of the national legislature’s seats through appointment, giving them veto power over all constitutional amendments.
Plans for a Jan. 12 peace conference led by the present government were meanwhile discussed on Monday, with talks set to continue Tuesday focused on issues to be debated during the conference and the preparation of lists of those to be invited.
“The upcoming conference will be one more step toward building a foundation of peace,” Sai Kyaw Nyunt, secretary of the organizing Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Monday.
“We had planned to hold the conference from Jan. 12 to 16, but the NLD suggested that we hold it for only three days,” he said.
“Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi said that the conference would cost a lot of money if we held it for a longer period, and that we would also waste our time,” Sai Kyaw Nyunt said.
“The conference will be hosted by the current government. At this time, the NLD is only an invited political party.”
About 750 participants will take part, including representatives from Myanmar’s government and military, political parties, and armed ethnic groups, he said.
Reported by Thiha Tun, Myo Zaw Ko, and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Moh Moh. Written in English by Richard Finney.