Aung San Suu Kyi Calls For New Strategy, Patience in Myanmar Peace Talks

Six days of talks produce agreement on 14 basic principles, but tough security issues remain.

Myanmar's Foreign Minister and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during the third session of the Union Peace Conference in Naypyidaw, July 11, 2018.

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday called for more patience and a new strategic vision to build a peace framework to end decades of civil war pitting the national army against more than a dozen ethnic armies in the Southeast Asian nation.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and foreign minister, made the appeal after the third round of the 21st-Century Panglong Conference in Naypyidaw concluded with 14 agreements in principle, adding to 37 points of accord reached at the previous peace talks session in May 2017.

“We found that with some points at the conference agreement could be reached, but some could not. All groups participating in the session have different histories and dreams. There are big challenges in this process that require patience and will take time to achieve agreement,” the domestic media outlet Democratic Voice of Burma quoted her as saying the capital Naypyidaw.

“To reach agreement on the security sector is important in the peace-making process because it is essential to become a perfect Union peace agreement,” she added. “To achieve that situation, we need to try by boldly reconsidering our political framework, structure and design.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking in her role as chairwoman of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), did not elaborate on what a new framework would look like.

Of the 14 basic principles agreed by the 700 delegates over six days, seven covered social issues, four were in the political sector, one involved the economy, and two addressed land matters, local media reports said.

No agreement was reached in the security sector, where the powerful national military and the ethnic militias remain at odds, the reports said.

“Our conference is not stopping, it is not reversing; it is moving forward with great difficulty,” Aung San Suu Kyi was quoted by The Irrawaddy, an online news outlet.

During the talks last week, On Thursday, Aung San Suu Kyi met on the sidelines of the peace conference with the leaders of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of militias based along the China-Myanmar border who have not signed the October 2015 nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) that formed the foundation of the talks.

Members of the Northern Alliance — the Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) — attended peace talks as observers and met separately with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Some ethnic armed groups have continued to battle Myanmar forces in their quest for a federal democratic union in the country with a constitutional guarantee for a certain degree of autonomy for ethnic minorities. Fighting has raged in regions along Myanmar's border with China for much of 2018.

Aung San Suu Kyi has made peace and national reconciliation between Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups and government forces a priority of her civilian National League for Democracy (NLD) government, trying with limited success to build on the cease-fire signed under her predecessor government.

She held the first round of the peace conference in late August 2016, five months after the NLD came to power.