Myanmar’s peace conference with ethnic rebels ends

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Bangkok, July 16 (IANS) The third peace conference between Myanmar’s government and ethnic minority rebel groups ended on Monday in Naypyidaw with the approval of 14 agreements and plans to meet again this year and twice more in 2019, state broadcaster MITV reported.

Around 700 people were present at the conference, which began on July 17 and was attended by 17 of the 21 active ethnic rebel groups in the country, reports Efe news.

The third round of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, which was first held in 2016, approved 14 agreements, including four on politics, two on economy and two on environment.

The four political agreements, called “basic principles,” are related to the equality of gender, a quota for at least 30 percent female representation in every sector, preventing violence against women and improvements in women’s education.

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Thirty-seven other agreements had been approved in the second round of the conference, held in 2017.

Most of the ethnic minorities of Myanmar, including Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kokang, Kayah, Mon, Rakhine and Shan, which together represent more than 30 percent of Myanmar’s 53-million strong population, have demanded greater autonomy from the country’s central government.

Seven of the 17 guerilla organisations which participated in the conference had not signed the National Ceasefire Agreement of 2015, urging modifications, but agreed to be part of the dialogue this week.

After being governed by successive military regimes from 1962 to 2011, Myanmar witnessed a transition phase and an elected government led by Suu Kyi came to power in 2016.

The new government had initiated peace and reconciliation efforts after coming to power, but clashes with rebel groups and the crisis surrounding the Rohingyas, a mostly Muslim minority which is absent at the conference, have raised questions on the process.

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Around 700,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 after a military offensive against them in Rakhine state.

–IANS

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