Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Three foreign diplomats attended the peace talks between the Karenni National Progressive Party [KNPP] and the Burmese government delegation on Wednesday. The two sides agreed to a cease-fire during state-level negotiations.
A peace mediator, Hla Maung Shwe, told Mizzima that U.S. attaché Andrew Webster; second secretary of the British Embassy Joe Fisher; and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative Hans ten Feld observed the talks held at the Karenni State guesthouse in Loikaw.
“The advantage of their presence is that they are like witnesses. That means the meetings have transparency. They could listen to the whole discussion. The government wanted to show nothing was secret,” said Hla Maung Shwe, who also attended the meeting.
On March 1, President Thein Sein in a speech commemorating the first anniversary of the government’s inauguration, said, “I have made a firm commitment to end all suspicions and anxieties during our tenure. And this is the conviction of our government. Sincerely, we will make no deception in our stride to the goal of eternal peace.” The KNPP is the 10th armed group to sign a peace agreement with the government since President Thein Sein set a goal in August 2011 to establish peace in the country.
In the Wednesday meeting, both sides agreed to a cease-fire, to open Karenni liaison offices in suitable locations and to hold union-level peace talks at a later date. It was the third meeting between the government and KNPP. Previous meetings were held on November 2011 and February 2012.
Seven union government ministers also attended the meeting.
“This is the first meeting with such a large number [of Union Ministers] attending a meeting like this. I think they are serious. The government seems to be taking the initiative,” said Hla Maung Shwe.
The government ministers included Karenni State Chief Minister Khin Maung Oo, Minister Aung Min, who is the leader of the delegation; Minister Soe Thein, Minister Nyan Tun Aung, Minister Than Htay, Minister Khin Yi and Minister Khin Maung Soe.
The KNPP delegation included leader Khu Oo Reh; KNPP Comander-in-Chief Bee Htoo; KNPP Colonel Phone Naing; seven Buddhist monks and seven Christian priests. The KNPP was formed in 1957.
About 20 media members also attended the meeting. Observers said about 8,000 local residents welcomed the peace delegations.