Burma: Government talks peace while its army continues warfare
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Burma: Government talks peace while its army continues warfare

The second Union-level meeting between government’s Union Peace Making Work Committee and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) held in Lashio on 10 October had resulted in the deal to build a village for families of the SSPP/SSA and IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), according to media reports.

Aung Min, Vice-Chairman of Union level Peace Making Work Committee, said that every citizen wishes to enjoy their citizen’s rights completely. He said the committee was at this juncture on Thursday to ensure equality of all nationalities at the coordination meeting on implementation of agreements between the Union level Peace-Making Group and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) Peace Group, The New Light of Myanmar said today. Aung Min also said that it was required to let grassroots know of the results of the peace making meeting.

Vice-Chairman Thein Zaw also said to provide all nationalities who fled the country because of various reasons with necessary assistances to be capable of continuing their livelihoods as peace and stability rise above the country. He also spoke about responsibility to set up committee and work committees to carry out rehabilitation tasks effectively. He stressed that both parties need collaborative efforts to carry out those tasks.

Khun Hsaing, General Secretary of Shan State Progressive Party, made a vow never to break away from the Union of Burma (also known as Myanmar). He also pledged to stick firmly together with the government for accomplishing eternal peace without reversing. Additionally, Khun Hsaing said that SSPP will stand on true Union spirit for eternal peace, the state-run media reported.

Present at the meeting from the government side were Shan State Chief Minister Sao Aung Myat, Brig-Gen Aung Soe, Brig-Gen Min Naung, Deputy Ministers Maj-Gen Zaw Win, Ohn Than and Aye Myint Maung, Deputy Attorney-General Tun Tun Oo. From the SSPP side, members of the central committee of the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army attended the meeting. They exchanged views on matters related to regional peace and stability and rehabilitation works.

According to the state-run newspapers, representatives from both sides talked about wide-ranging discussions on resettlement of over 3500 people including family members of Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army in Mong Kaung sub-Township and Mongshu Township. They also discussed responsibilities for livelihoods of family members, transportation, better living standards. Besides, on the agenda were regional development tasks and recuperation of vacant and virgin lands for cultivation of long-lasting trees and seasonal crops, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

According to the Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.), the new village for 350 families will be established in the Honam-Tawng Hio area where Tangyan and Monghsu township borders meet. It includes Namlao and Loi Khio from where the SSA had withdrawn after heavy fighting in June followed by negotiations with government’s representative Thein Zaw.

After reaching initial agreements with the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army, the government will join hands with SSPP in perpetual peace process. Next, the vice-chairmen and officials handed over two power-tillers to be used in cultivation of alternative crops, farm equipment, paddy seeds and hybrid corns presented by the President and jackets by Union level Peace Making Committee to officials concerned.

However, it was unknown how long it would take to form a committee to survey the area and choose a suitable site, Shan Herald Agency for News said. More upsetting was that the meeting ended without a signed agreement.

Even though there is a ceasefire agreement between the government’s peace-making team and the SSPP/SSA peace-making group, hostilities have been taking place sporadically in Shan State. Hence, the peace deal seems to be on paper only. Some analysts believe it would be of benefit to military-backed President Thein Sein government. Furthermore, the real aim of seeking brief ceasefire by the government seems to relieve economic sanctions, rather than genuine peace.

The Lashio meeting also did not discuss existing warfare in the Sino-Burmese oil and gas pipeline areas in northern Shan State. Neither did the two sides talk about Ta Hsarm Pu Crossing over the Pang river, where the Burma Army had demanded the SSA must withdraw its troops from.

“It means the fighting goes on,” said SSPP/SSA spokesman Major Sai La, according to S.H.A.N.

Referring to another officer, Shan Herald Agency for News said that the SSA may need to deal with the regional commanders directly to talk about military issues. Even though some ceasefire deals are made between the rebel groups and the government, there has been little real progress on the frontlines.

It seems the military-backed government has been attempting to obtain more international recognition through sham peace-talks with the ethnic rebels. In contrast, the Burma Army launches offensives against the ethnic armed groups in order to control resource rich ethnic areas.