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Ethnic groups welcome new gov’t peace team

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Ethnic armed groups and others welcomed the Burmese government’s newly formed union level peace committee, especially the inclusion of the highest government and military officials.

KNU peace delegate Saw David Taw, chief of the KNU judicial department, speaks at a press conference on January 12, 2012. Photo: MizzimaThey expressed hope that the peace negotiations would be more effective with the inclusion of the president, vice president and top military officers on the peace committee.

The government has not yet officially announced the formation of the new union-level peace committee.

Karen National Union (KNU) peace delegation Secretary Pado David Taw said it was important that the committee included top military commanders, who can give direct orders to the armed forces to implement the various cease-fire and other agreements.

He said the government committee should be “more effective in peace negotiations and the peace process.”

A spokesman for the Shan State Army – South (SSA-S), Major Sai Lao Sai, said, “It is the good sign. We hope the unresolved issues in our ongoing peace process will be handled more effectively. After reaching peace and a cease-fire agreement with the government, we [now] have problems in dealing with the armed forces in implementing the agreement.”

Both the KNU and SSA-S will have further meetings with the government peacemaking teams in May.

Military analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw on the Sino-Burma border said the new committee was more inclusive as there were many more decision makers in politics and the military on the union committee.

“I welcome it, but they need to implement concrete issues not only form committees and change members again and again. These previous peacemaking groups were ineffective because there were too few members with real power. Now they have included decision makers in the central government and the military hierarchy,” he said.

“In military affairs, these commanders can resolve issues more effectively and concretely. Previously, they just talked for show, signed an agreement and posed in a photo session,” he said.

Aung Kyaw Zaw said that the ethnic issues could be resolved only through thorough and time-consuming negotiations, because the issues frequently involved disagreements that had festered for six decades. He said recent agreements with Norway and Denmark, which have agreed to provide some funding for the peace process, might be a driving force for the government.

La Nan, the spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), said that policy and trust are essential for peacemaking.

“Policy is the main thing,” he told Mizzima. “The peace delegations must work on adopting policies that do not depend on an individual but on [clear detailed] policies. Building confidence between the two sides is more important and it’s a major issue.”

La Nan said the government’s current policy of bringing ethnic armed groups into parliaments to deliberate constitutional issues and to transform ethnic armed groups into members of the Border Guard Force would not produce significant results.

The KIO and government troops renewed fighting in June 2011, involving a total of 1,309 clashes, according to the KIO.

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