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Suu Kyi offers to mediate Myanmar peace talks

Opposition leader breaks silence on state's conflict with ethnic Kachin rebels, saying she would broker talks if asked.
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2013 07:39
Kachin leaders say government forces are continuing to push towards their strongholds near China [Al Jazeera]

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has offered to help negotiate an end to conflicts between the government and the country's ethnic minority groups.

Suu Kyi made the offer on Tuesday in a video address to members of her National League for Democracy party on Union Day, which marks when her late father signed a 1947 agreement with leaders of the country's ethnic minorities to gain independence from Britain.

The occasion is a reminder of an issue that has destabilised the country since even before it obtained independence in 1948 under the name of Burma.

Rebellions by ethnic minorities striving for greater autonomy were hard for a democratic parliamentary system to deal with, which increased pressure for strong central authority and helped lead to an army takeover in 1962. Military rule persisted until 2011.

The government of elected President Thein Sein has reached ceasefire agreements with most of the major ethnic groups, but still finds itself engaged in a bitter struggle with the Kachin in northern Myanmar.

Thein Sein in his Union Day address stressed the importance of "political stability and the end of armed conflicts".

Long-term challenges

Suu Kyi said she would take part in peace talks if the parties involved asked her to.

"I have been criticised by some people for not taking part in peace talks regarding the Kachin conflict. I have always said I am willing to take part in the peace process if the concerned parties wanted me to," she said.

Suu Kyi's father, General Aung San, was assassinated before independence after negotiating the 1947 Panglong Agreement with the minorities. Many in Myanmar believe his removal from the scene was the reason the pact failed to keep the peace.

Tension with ethnic minorities fighting for greater autonomy in Myanmar is considered one of the biggest major long-term challenges for any Myanmar government, though the Kachin are the only major ethnic rebel group that has not reached a truce with Thein Sein's administration.

A cease-fire that held for nearly two decades broke down in June 2011 after the Kachin refused to abandon a strategic base near a hydropower plant that is a joint venture with a Chinese company.

Clashes escalated after the government began using fighter planes and helicopter gunships in its attacks starting in late December 25.

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