Ethnic groups have a strong distrust of the Burmese government, and it is now necessary for President U Thein Sein to move past the rhetoric and realize some practical achievements in the peace progress says Nai Ngwe Thein, Chairman of Mon Democracy Party (MDP).

During a December 1st radio address the President said “the peace talk between the Union Peace-making Working Committee (UPWC) and ethnic armed organizations has been successful. We all can see that several steps of nationwide ceasefire have been taken.”

“[Thein Sein] cannot yet say that [the nationwide ceasefire process has been] successful because negotiation is on-going . . . there has only been one meeting in Myintkyina [the capital of Kachin State]. As far as I know, there remains a big gap between the positions of the two sides,” responded Nai Ngwe Thein.

Nai Ngwe Thein also pointed out that the early November Myitkyina peace talks between the government’s UPWC and the ethnic armed organizations group – consisting of 16 armed groups – concluded without a press conference after only a short period of negotiation. A ‘joint-statement’ was later released to the media by the Myanmar Peace Centre.

The key commitments put-forward in the six-point joint-statement were: to continue discussions towards a nationwide ceasefire agreement; to agree to a peace talk framework; and to hold another round of talks in December at Pa’an the capital of Karen State.

“There are some points from the government’s proposed nationwide ceasefire draft that we do not accept. Because of that, we are worried that peace talks will be delayed,” said Nai Hongsar, the general secretary of United Nationalities Federation Council (UNFC).

Nai Hongsar also pointed out that the government’s nationwide ceasefire draft stipulates that ethnic armed groups refrain from building new bases, recruiting new members, and buying, selling or transferring weapons. This stipulation amounts to a de facto order for ethnic armed groups to disarm.

Last week, the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) held a meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand to prepare a draft of the 11-point Peace Framework to be submitted to the government.

The NCCT will finalize the Peace Framework at an upcoming ethnic armed group conference to be held at Karen National Union (KNU) headquarters before the next round of official peace talks at Pa-an in December.

In his recent radio address President Thein Sein also stated that although there was distrust between the government and the ethnic armed groups at first, now after two years progress has been made towards the goal of peace and reconciliation.

In fact, it has been nearly three years since the Thein Sein government took power, and despite the President’s positive sounding speeches about reform – he has given 67 speeches on this topic already – there has been little practical reform realized on the ground.