October 29, 2014 / 7:19 PM / in 3 years

Myanmar government and political groups to meet on Friday

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s political and military leaders will hold an unprecedented meeting with heads of major political parties and ethnic groups this week to discuss national reconciliation ahead of elections in 2015, local media reported on Wednesday.

Myanmar's President Thein Sein returns to his seat after giving a speech during the opening ceremony of the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting, at the Myanmar International Convention Centre (MICC) in Naypyitaw August 8, 2014. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Participants at Friday’s meeting in the capital Naypyidaw will include President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the National League for Democracy, the English-language Irrawaddy Magazine said on its web site.

Topics expected to be discussed include on-going peace talks with ethnic rebel groups, national reconciliation and reforms.

Next year’s parliamentary election will be the first since President Thein Sein embarked on landmark reforms in 2011, dismantling the control of the military which had ruled since seizing power in a 1962 coup.

It will also be the first general election that Suu Kyi’s NLD has contested since it won a 1990 vote that the military ignored. The party boycotted a 2010 election held under military rule when Suu Kyi was under house arrest.

Friday’s meeting comes at a sensitive time, with U.S. President Barack Obama set to arrive in the country next month for a regional summit amid growing U.S. concerns over setbacks to human rights in Myanmar.

Also participating at Friday’s talks will be Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Khun Htun Oo, head of the United Nationalities Alliance and other political and ethnic leaders.

The NLD has collected 5 million signatures around the country to press the ruling party to revise the constitution to remove the military’s veto over changes to the constitution, including the clause that prevents Suu Kyi from becoming president because she was married to a foreign national and her two sons are British citizens.

The meeting in Naypyidaw will also address peace talks with rebel groups, some of whom have battled Myanmar’s central government since shortly after independence from Britain in 1948.

While the government has struck ceasefires with almost all factions, clashes often flare up, undermining the government’s goal of signing a national ceasefire agreement before next year’s elections.

Editing by Dominic Evans

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