President, rebels sign draft cease-fire
Updated: 2015-04-01 07:49
By Agence France-Presse in Yangon(China Daily)
Myanmar's president on Tuesday signed a draft national cease-fire with armed rebel groups that the UN hailed as a "historic and significant achievement" as the country tries to end decades of civil war.
Reformist leader Thein Sein, who has placed a national cease-fire agreement at the heart of efforts to shake off the legacy of military rule, said an end to the fighting was within reach - even though unrest continues in northern border areas.
"The people need peace, they desire peace and they expect peace," he told representatives of 16 major ethnic minority armed groups at the draft signing ceremony in Yangon on Tuesday, adding that a full agreement could be inked in months.
But the draft will only be officially signed after a conference of the ethnic armed groups, for which no date has been set.
Negotiators said some of the more contentious points had been excised from the agreement, in a move likely to have enabled the draft to be accepted.
The UN, which has acted as an observer to months of peace negotiations, said the tentative deal was a "milestone" for the former junta-run nation, which has grappled with some of the world's longest-running civil wars.
Myanmar has been racked by unrest since independence from Britain in 1948 as insurgencies flared among minority groups demanding greater autonomy. Conflicts were fueled in part by tussles over the country's rich natural resources.
Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after 49 years of army rule, has pushed for a cease-fire with the country's multiple armed groups before campaigning begins for a crucial general election expected in November.
But heavy fighting has continued in Myanmar's northern Kachin and Shan states.
(China Daily 04/01/2015 page11)