HOPONE, Myanmar (Reuters) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the weekend appealed to ethnic rebel groups in nationwide ceasefire talks with the government not to rush the deal, but work slowly on an agreement that would ensure long-lasting peace and stability.
The Nobel peace laureate’s comments come ahead of a meeting between Myanmar President Thein Sein and ethnic rebel groups on Wednesday in the capital Naypyitaw to discuss a draft of the long-discussed ceasefire proposal.
Clinching the deal with most of Myanmar’s rebel groups would be a political win for Thein Sein, who made it his top priority, boosting the chances of his ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in the Nov. 8 general election.
The draft of the agreement was hammered out during almost two years of grueling negotiations, but ethnic armed groups have so far refused to sign it, saying the government should amend the constitution to grant more autonomy to ethnic minorities.
“If the ceasefire agreement is the real agreement to stop fighting, I want to accomplish it as soon as possible. But it has to be real and true,” Suu Kyi said in a speech in the town of Hopone.
Touring Shan State ahead of the Tuesday kick off of the election campaign, Suu Kyi also told farmers, students and shopowners that all rebel groups should be included in an accord to end hostilities between the Myanmar army and the many factions that have taken up arms since independence in 1948.
Residents of Hsihseng and Hopone, two remote Shan towns, braved the scorching sun on Saturday and Sunday to greet Suu Kyi with flags and banners supporting her National League for Democracy, widely expected to win the historic election.
“The most important thing is that it’s a long-lasting ceasefire deal. No fighting should break out again on the next day after signing of the agreement,” said Suu Kyi.
But an agreement with all ethnic armies is unlikely, experts say, given that some of the groups are excluded from the talks as fighting in the restive Kokang region along the country’s border with China has continued unabated since February.
Underscoring the severity of the situation in the area, Myanmar parliament last month backed the motion to continue martial law in Kokang, giving the military sweeping judicial and administrative powers.
Additional reporting by Hnin Yadana Zaw; Editing by Ros Russell