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Ethnic peace No. 1 issue for Thein Sein: Adviser

(Mizzima) – The most pressing issue for Burmese President Thein Sein is to sign peace agreements with all ethnic armed groups to end decades of fighting, an adviser to the president told a Hong Kong conference last week.

Presidential adviser U Ko Ko Hlaing said that the return of the National League for Democracy to the formal political process has pushed peace agreements with ethnic armed groups to the government’s most urgent unsettled matter, according to a story the Myanmar Times on Sunday.

Ko Ko Hlaing spoke at a conference at City University of Hong Kong on January 26-27 titled “Myanmar after the 2010 Elections.”

“The government does not need to turn back from the road to democracy because it has popular support and strong commitment to achieve the goal of building a peaceful and democratic nation,” the state-run newspaper quoted him a saying.

“There are two steps in making peace effort, first step is to achieve ceasefire agreement and the second is to build mutual trust and understanding, through which cooperation can be achieved.”

The current government has taken a different approach to peacemaking efforts compared to the former military regime, said Ko Ko Hlaing, alluding to the government’s efforts to approach peace through political agreements rather than just a cease-fire agreement. A genuine peace with ethnic armed groups has been an essential condition cited by Western nations before the removal of economic sanctions.

U Thu Wai, chairman of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), said at the conference that peace between the ethnic armed groups and the government needed to take on a greater meaning than simply an end to armed hostilities.

“The reason the ethnic minorities took up arm is that they felt that they are not secure. A military, by nature, is security conscious. They need to have a sense of security provided by the government,” the newspaper quoted him saying.

He said that development cannot be achieved without peace and stability and that a strong opposition was needed for genuine democracy.  

“Now the Parliament is dynamic with official criticism of the government policy. If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi participates in parliament after the election, it will be more active and dynamic with strong opposition,” Ko Ko Hlaing said.

The government recently held two days of talks on January 18 and 19 with the Kachin Independence Organization. Both sides agreed to hold further talks.

One of the reasons for the KIO’s reluctance to sign a cease-fire agreement with the government is that it has long dreamed of seeing Burma emulate China’s one-country, a two-system policy, said U Aung Naing Oo, the deputy director of the Vahu Development Institute.

“The KIO wants to see a Kachin Region [with the autonomy of] a Special Administration Region like Hong Kong in China,” he told the conference.

Ko Ko Hlaing said that the government was on the right track to national reconciliation and the positive changes to date were not reversible.

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