Bangkok: Myanmar`s leaders have begun a new
round of peace talks with several ethnic groups fighting a
long-running struggle for autonomy and rights, a major rebel
organisation said today.
Government minister Aung Min met delegates from some of
the country`s ethnic groups on Saturday near the Thai-Myanmar
border, said Colonel James Lum Dau of the Kachin Independence
Organisation, one of the groups attending.
Since Myanmar gained independence in 1948, conflict
between the army and rebels from various minority ethnic
groups has led to decades of violence, allegations of grave
human rights abuses and the displacement of tens of thousands
"This was preliminary talks between the government and
ethnic armed groups," Lum Dau, who is based in Bangkok, said
today, "This was an introduction for talks in the future," he
said, adding that the meeting was a "good sign".
He told AFP that fighting was currently "very very
serious" in northern Kachin state, one of the regions of most
concern. "Everyday we are killing each other," he said.
Saturday`s meeting, which included groups representing
the Kachin, Karen and Shan minorities, came at the end of a
landmark week for army-dominated Myanmar, which won Southeast
Asia`s approval to chair the region`s political bloc in 2014
and a seal of approval from the United States.
While a new nominally civilian government that took power
this year has won praise for some surprising reformist moves,
concerns remain about relations with ethnic minorities, who
make up more than a third of the population.
Speaking to Myanmar journalists at a summit in Indonesia
on Saturday, President Thein Sein said his government was in
talks with seven out of eight active insurgent groups.
He said the government was trying to "build trust" but
the groups would "have to promise not to try to secede from
the country", according to the Myanmar Times.
"We will look to implement more projects to raise their
living standards while at the same time negotiate with them.
If it works they will not be holding weapons in the future."
Hillary Clinton, who will become the first US Secretary
of State to visit Myanmar in 50 years next month, raised the
issue in an interview with Fox News on Friday.
"We`d like to see an end to the conflicts, particularly
the terrible conflicts with ethnic minorities," she said.