NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar (AFP) – Myanmar’s government Thursday held a somber ceremony marking the nation’s symbolic unification after the colonial era, but a coveted ceasefire with ethnic rebel groups remained out of reach as conflict sweeps across northern borderlands.
The quasi-civilian regime says peace in the ethnically diverse but conflict-prone nation is pivotal to the success of reforms and Myanmar’s development.
It had hoped to reach a breakthrough in the protracted negotiations in time for the Union Day celebration, which saw starched-uniformed soldiers parade in front of civil servants and ethnic minority leaders, many proudly wearing their traditional clothes.
But officials said hours of talks Thursday between President Thein Sein and around a dozen ethnic minority armed groups in the capital Naypyidaw were likely to produce only a pledge to continue negotiations.
“We have to sign a commitment with them, rather than an agreement, after our talks,” said information minister Ye Htut.
The discussions come amid deadly unrest in the northern states of Kachin and Shan.
Talks have also been hampered by distrust between rebel groups and the Myanmar military, as well as issues such as disarmament and the concept of federal armies.
In an ominous development, clashes earlier this week between Myanmar’s army and rebels in the largely ethnic Chinese Kokang area of Shan reopened a conflict that had been largely dormant for nearly six years.
Ye Htut said the military was “striving to restore safety and security” in the area, after state-backed media reported that government forces had used airstrikes in their efforts to flush out the rebels.