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Shan, Karenni and Mon delegates have concluded a three-day meeting in Taunggyi by issuing a statement calling for a nationwide ceasefire and ethnic rights.
The Trust-building for Peace Forum was held on 21– 23 September, and was attended by a total of 331 individuals including representatives of 21 political parties, 15 armed groups and three civic groups. Thirty-one observers attended, including members of the government’s Peace-making Work Committee led by union minister Aung Min.
In concluding the conference, the assorted ethnic delegates called for:
- a nationwide ceasefire;
- the abolition of all laws that don’t meet democratic standards, including the Unlawful Association Act;
- a genuine federal union that is built upon a foundation of equality, democratic standards and self-determination;
- an ethnic convention representing all Burma’s minorities based on the spirit of the Panglong Agreement;
- amendments to the constitution.
“We are calling for the abolition of undesirable laws such as the Unlawful Association Act, 505(b) [disturbing public tranquility] and the recently enacted Article 18 [staging a public gathering without official permission],” said Sai Lek of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. “We also oppose laws meant to oppress the media.”
He said that the priority was the immediate dissolution of the Peaceful Assembly Law and the Peaceful Procession Law which has led to peaceful protesters being arrested and jailed simply for holding a rally without permission from authorities, something Sai Lek described as “completely unreasonable”.
The three-day forum in Taunggyi followed on from a meeting on Friday between the Burmese government’s Peace-making Work Committee and three Shan state-based ethnic armed groups: the Shan State Army-South, the Shan State Army-North and the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation.
According to mediator Min Zaw Oo of the Myanmar Peace Center, the roundtable talks were held to promote mutual trust ahead of a plan to implement a nationwide ceasefire among all the armed groups in Burma.
He said that representatives from the armed groups expressed concerns that the government would not abide by its promise to engage in political dialogue once a nationwide ceasefire is agreed. He said that Minister Aung Min replied that in signing a ceasefire the government recognises the decision to facilitate political dialogue with all ethnic groups.