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Published on Monday, 21 January 2013 13:17
In his first public meeting with representatives of civil society, President Thein Sein on Sunday called for all people to join the peace process and said that civil society could play a key role in ensuring lasting peace.
“The peace process will not work if only leaders shake hands and sign agreements. All people need to be involved for the process to succeed,” the president said, calling on civil society to keep the public informed about the process.
“Civil organisations can play a crucial role by communicating the agreements between the [two sides’] leaders to the public,” Thein Sein said during the meeting at the parliamentary building in Yangon that drew members of about 90 civil society groups.
He said that achieving peace would take time and compared the current situation to what other countries had gone through. The process of establishing peace was usually one in which conflict and tension flared and subsided, he added.
Thein Sein stressed that negotiations were the key to solving conflict and said that his government had been increasing its peace talks with armed ethnic groups this year.
Inviting the Kachin Independence Organisation and Kachin Independence Army to ceasefire talks is a step towards ending violence in the entire country, he said, adding that the invitation signaled that the government was open to ensuring the peace ethnic groups were demanding.
He said he had not ordered the army to attack the Kachin groups’ headquarters in the northern state’s Laiza town, saying that while government troops were nearby they had not been told “to eliminate the Laiza headquarters”.
Thein Sein said his government faced numerous challenges simultaneously and did not have the luxury of working on one at a time. It had to work for national development so that the country could catch up to others, while at the same time ensuring national solidarity and peace.
To create an open society, transparency and freedom should be practiced by individuals and organisations as well as the government, he said, adding that it was necessary to take the challenges the country faced into consideration.
As the process of building a modern society and economy had encountered several domestic hurdles, Thein Sein said national unity was necessary. He invoked General Aung San, the father of Myanmar’s national independence, in his call for greater unity, and said he was optimistic that political freedom and transparency would enhance unity.
Representatives of civil society groups raised numerous issues, including restoring peace in Kachin State as well as problems they faced. The president pledged to schedule meetings so they could discuss their issues in detail with relevant ministries.