President meets ethnic armed groups

President Thein Sein held a formal meeting with representatives of ethnic armed groups on January 5 in Nay Pyi Taw, the official capital of Myanmar.

Leaders and representatives from 12 armed ethnic groups exchanged their views during the meeting.

"We just met to talk about things we haven't discussed yet. It's still not a real dialogue. We just exchanged our opinions and views. That's all. Most importantly, we talked about how to complete the national peace process. It's very important to have a nation-wide ceasefire. We all agreed to work together for the sake of the nation basically," said Khum Myint Tun, chairman of the Pa-O National Liberation Organization.

Union minister Aung Min said the ethnic armed groups had the chance to present their grievances to the president.

"There are those among the ethnic groups who want to speed up the national peace process and also those who wish to slow it down. Those who want a faster process said on December 22-23 that they would sign an agreement on Union Day. We need to prepare for that. That's why the president invited ethnic leaders to attend the celebration of the 67th Independence Day and military parade," said minister Aung Min.

The ethnic armed groups urged that a firm political agreement must be achieved within the next month in order for the nation-wide ceasefire to be signed on Union Day, February 12, as recommended by the groups.

"There were previously some misunderstandings between us as we couldn’t meet like this. So we suggested that more meetings are needed. But there is no date set for the next meeting," said Colonel Sai Hla of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army.

Although the government invited all 16 ethnic armed groups that have been involved in in ceasefire talks to attend the celebration, four groups, including the Kachin Independence Army, Ta'ang National Liberation Army, Karenni National Progressive Party and Chin National Front, did not attend.