Aung San Suu Kyi, whose pro-democracy party will take over power in Burma from a pro-military government in the coming months, took part for the first time yesterday in official talks to end conflict with ethnic minorities.
Ms Suu Kyi spoke at the opening of a peace conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that seeks to drive forward a ceasefire deal signedin October between the government and ethnic guerrilla armies. Several major groups failed to sign the pact and were also absent from yesterday’s event.
Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been wracked by war for decades as ethnic minorities fight for greater autonomy from the central government.
Ms Suu Kyi, who led her National League for Democracy to victory in November’s election, said yesterday that having all of the rebel groups take part would make the ceasefire talks more effective.
President Thein Sein hoped the ceasefire deal would be the keynote achievement of his term of office, which will almost certainly end within the next few weeks. But the failure to be inclusive has thrown its effectiveness into doubt. Yesterday’s meeting looked at political aspects of the agreement, such as devolving more power to the regions.
The head of the army, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, said the door remained open to the other groups.
Ms Suu Kyi had urged armed ethnic groups not to sign up to the current agreement. In her speech she said she believed the fighting could be stopped but she referred to the need to bring all the armies into the process.
“It will be always more effective to have the inclusiveness of all ethnic groups than having a few,” she said. “We all can reach the ethnic people’s dream faster by co-operating with all ethnic groups.”