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Burma resumes peace talks with KIO in China, along with charter row

The Government of Myanmar (Burma) has welcomed peace gesture proposed in the statement issued by KIO’s Central Committee on February 1, 2013, as per Press Release (6/2013) of its Information Team via the state-run newspapers on 2 February.

GOM said that it has believed the legitimate peace desired by all people can be achieved only through political dialogue. The Government welcomes peace efforts assisted by ethnic ceasefire groups and other organizations in an attempt to support the Union Peace Working Committee and KIO/KIA to resume peace talks and put an end to armed conflicts, according to the press release.
According to the 7Days News Journal, government peacemaking team and ethnic KIO peace delegation will hold talks in the Chinese border town of Ruili in China on 4 February (Monday), after severe fighting in the Kachin State of Burma nearly 18 months.
Officials say the talks will begin Monday in the Chinese border town of Ruili. The meeting comes after the army seized several strategic guerrilla-held hilltops this month in the hills around Laiza, which serves as a headquarters for the rebel movement, AP News said Sunday.
On 11 January 2013, the Lower House of Burma (Myanmar) made a request to Union Peacemaking Central Committee and KIO/KIA at the second day sixth regular session of the First People’s Parliament. The call made by the Lower House to Union Peace-making Central Committee and KIO/KIA says the members of parliament have felt sadness for local people of Kachin state who have been suffering the consequences of the ongoing war. The fighting caused loss of both sides due to daily armed conflicts in Kachin state, it says.
The request keeps on saying that there have been difficulties to hold talks between the members of peace-making team of the government and representatives of KIO/KIA as military action swelling in the region continuously. The request letter says to ease the military tensions in favor of the people’s voices while building trust through the negotiation. Hence, it would pave the way for the lasting peace, says the request letter signed by the Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann.
The key point of disagreement between the KIO and the military-backed government is the attitude with the 1947 Panglong Agreement. KIO has declared that it will talk through the ethnic alliance, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), keeping on the spirit of the Panglong Agreement.
On the contrary, the military-backed government made its negative response of peace talks based on the principles of the 1947 Panglong Treaty advised by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). The government sticks to the 2008 controversial constitution as the guideline for the peace talks.
The landmark Panglong Agreement mainly guaranteed self-determination of the ethnic minorities and offered a large measure of autonomy, including independent legislature, judiciary and administrative powers. However, the dream of equality and a federal union is far from being realized some six decades after signing the Panglong Agreement.
The new constitution, approved in a May 2008 referendum, is inundated with misleading principles. It says the country must be united under one military command. To bring the ethnic groups in line with this proviso, the military regime has ordered all armed rebel groups to become part of Burma’s border guard force ahead of the 2010 election.
Ethnic minorities have been suffering through five decades of immoral military operations in the name of national unity. Attacks on these rural civilians continue on a daily basis. There is a constant demand from Burma’s ethnic groups to enjoy equal political, social and economic rights. The Constitution must guarantee the rights of self-determination and of equal representation for every ethnic group in the Parliament. It must also include provisions against racial discrimination.
During the June-2004 National Convention sponsored by the previous junta, 13 ceasefire groups put forward a political offer demanding equal access to the plenary session. But the convention’s convening committee dismissed the proposal as improper. When the 2008 Constitution came out, none of the political points proposed by the ethnic representatives were included.
On this political issue, there is a big gap between the military junta and the NLD led by Aung San Suu Kyi. To the military autocrats, allowing the ethnic minorities to enjoy equal political, social and economic rights is a risk towards a collapse of sovereignty. 
To the NLD and ethnic alliance parties, granting equal rights to ethnic minorities will certainly guarantee peace, stability and prosperity of the country. Actually, the military-backed government leaders strongly support the unitary state instead of a federal union state. On the other hand, the NLD and ethnic leaders continuously demand in favor of a democratic federal union state. 
At the first Union Parliament second regular session on 22 August 2011, President Thein Sein said, “We know what happen to people and what people want. And we are striving our best to fulfill their needs to the full extent. To conclude my speech, I promise that our government as a democratically-elected government will do our best for the interests of the people.”
If the president really knows what people want, he should think about amending of the controversial constitution in which none of the political aspirations suggested by the ethnic representatives was integrated.
If the existing government truthfully committed to start political reforms, the first thing it should bear in mind is providing access to debate on constitutional flaws in the parliament.
Without a debate on the 2008 Constitution by all stakeholders, Burma will not rise above its political fiasco including the Kachin conflict.

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