Two ethnic groups of Myanmar to sign up peace process


13 February, 2018 11:45 AM

Two ethnic groups of Myanmar to sign up peace process

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Two armed ethnic groups will sign on to a ceasefire in Myanmar on Tuesday in a ceremony the government hopes will showcase a significant victory for a peace process derided as "broken" by critics.

World attention has recently focused on the desperate plight of the some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims forced over the border into Bangladesh in western Myanmar by a violent military campaign.

But this is just one of some two dozen conflicts festering around the country's restive fringes, where ethnic minorities have been locked in decades-long battles with the state for more autonomy.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi announced that securing peace was her top priority when her civilian administration took office in 2016, ending five decades of military domination.

But there has been little to show for the effort, with swathes of the borderlands still embroiled in often drug-fuelled unrest that has displaced tens of thousands of people.

On Tuesday the government can claim a symbolic victory after the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) ink the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in Naypyidaw, joining eight other militias who had signed onto the pact before Suu Kyi took office.

The two groups have not actively clashed with the army for some time but were part of a bloc of powerful rebel armies that resisted signing the NCA under the former military-backed government.

"We believe in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi but we'll have to see what happens on the road ahead because the government and the military are not very united," LDU chairman Kya Khun Sar told AFP ahead of the signing.