Myanmar president invites Karen rebels to form party
Apr 7, 2012, 7:36 GMT
Yangon - Myanmar President Thein Sein on Saturday invited leaders of the Karen insurgency to form a political party and join parliament as a means of governing their own territories.
The Karen National Union (KNU) leadership was flown by special plane to meet with the president in the capital Naypyitaw Saturday, following talks with a government team in Yangon the day before.
The two sides agreed to work toward a lasting ceasefire, to guarantee people's safety, to resettle tens of thousands of refugees displaced by fighting in the Karen State over the past two decades, and to cooperate on demining.
'The president told the KNU that the Myanmar government has the sincere desire to have eternal peace with all the ethnic groups,' said a member of the government delegation who requested anonymity.
'Thein Sein also invited the KNU to form a political party to contest the next election to join parliament, so they can participate in governing the Karen State,' the source said.
The Karen delegation flew back to the former capital Yangon and was scheduled to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday.
Suu Kyi and 42 members of her National League for Democracy won parliamentary seats in a by-election on April 1. She is expected to play a role in peace talks with Myanmar's numerous insurgencies.
The KNU has been fighting for autonomy in Karen State since 1949.
The government and the KNU signed an initial ceasefire in January.
The government has signed ceasefires with 10 of the country's 11 ethnic minority insurgencies this year. It has failed to reach an agreement with the Kachin Independence Organization.
Fighting in the northern state of Kachin since June has displaced an estimated 60,000 civilians.
Achieving peace with ethnic minorities is one of the conditions the West has set for lifting economic sanctions on Myanmar.
The sanctions were imposed because of the country's poor human rights record, including the abuse of minority groups that make up more than 30 per cent of the population.
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