Myanmar officials meet for peace talks

2012-04-06 10:00

Yangon - The Myanmar government and leaders of the country's Karen insurgency on Friday held peace talks in Yangon to end the group's six-decades-old struggle for semi-autonomy in their eastern state.

"It is the first time for me to visit Yangon," said Karen National Union (KNU) general secretary Naw Zipporah before she entered the negotiations at a hotel. Previous talks with the KNU have always been held outside the former capital.

"We will discuss not only about the ceasefire issue but also about solving all conflicts," Zipporah said.

The government delegation was headed by Railways Minister Aung Min, who signed an initial ceasefire with the Karen National Army, the armed wing of the KNU, in January in Pa-an, the capital of Karen State.

Talks between the KNU and the government resumed on Wednesday in Pa-an before being shifted to Yangon, Myanmar's commercial capital.

The administrative capital was moved to Naypyitaw, 350km north of Yangon, in 2005.

Since January, Myanmar's government has signed ceasefires with 10 of the country's 11 ethnic minority insurgencies but has failed to reach an agreement with the Kachin Independence Organisation.

Fighting has been raging in that northern state since June, displacing as many as 60 000 civilians.

Achieving peace with ethnic minority groups is one of the conditions the West has set for lifting economic sanctions on Myanmar.

The sanctions were imposed for the country's poor human rights record, including the abuse of the minority groups that make up more than 30% of the population.