Peace a top priority for Burma’s new government

Peace a top priority for Burma’s new government

Reuters

Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi said in January 2016 that the country’s peace process will be the first priority of her new government that will take power later this year, following a landslide victory in a November 2015 election.

The country has struggled for decades to reach lasting peace agreements with a multitude of ethnic minority guerrilla groups that have fought against the government for greater autonomy and recognition.

The government signed a cease-fire in October 2015, but the deal fell short of its nationwide billing, with seven of 15 invited groups declining to sign, including some of the most powerful.

Fighting has since flared in eastern parts of the country between the military, nonsignatories and groups that did not take part in the negotiations.

“The peace process is the first thing the new government will work on. We will try for the all-inclusive cease-fire agreement,” Suu Kyi said in a speech to mark Independence Day at the headquarters of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Yangon.

“We can do nothing without peace in our country.”

Suu Kyi spurned the government-led peace talks that President Thein Sein touted as a major achievement of his semi-civilian administration, which took power in 2011, ending 49 years of direct military rule.

She did not attend a signing ceremony in October 2015.

The next step in the peace process, a political dialogue with the eight groups that signed, was set to begin in mid-January 2016.

The NLD-led government will take power in March 2016 following a presidential election expected to take place in February 2016, but the military will remain a powerful political force.

A quarter of seats in parliament are reserved for unelected military officials. Three important cabinet ministers — home affairs, defense and border affairs — are also chosen by the commander in chief.

Suu Kyi remains barred from becoming president under the military-drafted constitution.

Suu Kyi’s speech was one of her first since winning the election and marked 68 years of Burma’s independence.

The Nobel laureate’s father, Aung San, is greatly revered in Burma for leading the country’s fight for independence from the British and founding the military.

He was assassinated in 1947, six months before his dream of an independent nation was realized when Suu Kyi was just 2 years old.

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