The nationwide ceasefire accord, development projects and drug eradication were among the top issues discussed when Shan, Wa and Mongla army leaders met with Burma’s president and military chief earlier this week.

In two separate meetings, leaders from the three allied ethnic groups met in Naypyidaw on Monday with President Thein Sein and Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing. They reportedly acknowledged progress in the three-year peace process, which they said was a relatively short time to solve six decades of civil war.

Sao Khun Sai, secretary of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP)—the political wing of the Shan State Army North (SSA-N)—said his organization supported the views of Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), an alliance of 16 ethnic armed groups including the SSA-N. An NCCT leader recently said he believed a nationwide ceasefire accord would be signed with the government this year.

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Mongla army are not represented on the NCCT, but their leaders on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to sign the accord

Min Aung Hlaing highlighted his support for the military’s six-point principles, which the NCCT still opposes. The points call on ethnic groups to have a “genuine wish” for peace, to keep promises they make in the peace process, to refrain from exploiting peace agreements, to avoid burdening the people, to follow the rule of law, and to respect the 2008 Constitution. The six-point principles will not be incorporated into the nationwide ceasefire accord, according to agreements between ethnic leaders and government officials at recent negotiations.

But the peace process did not dominate the talks on Monday. “We focused on development projects and the drug problem,” said Sao Khun Sai of the SSPP, which has faced criticism for pushing forward development projects before the nationwide ceasefire is signed, as some roads and bridges have been destroyed in ongoing clashes in northern Shan State.

“We have [spent] 1 billon kyats [US$1 million] for the developments of bridges and roads since the beginning of 2013,” he added. One-quarter of that funding came from the government.

To combat the drug problem in Shan State, where the world’s second-biggest supply of opium is produced, he said it was important to support substitution crops and rehab clinics for addicts. Wa leaders, meanwhile, have claimed that opium is no longer produced in their territories, though fighting continues over the opium trade.

Link: http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/shan-wa-mongla-leaders-meet-burmese-president-army-chief.html