Myanmar agreed to a peace plan with rebels from war-torn Karen state Friday in high-level talks to cement a ceasefire aimed at ending one of the world’s longest-running civil conflicts.
Delegates from the political and armed wings of the Karen National Union (KNU) and government officials negotiated a 13-point deal at a meeting in Yangon, according to a joint statement.
The plan includes a commitment to end ethnic conflict across Myanmar, which has been gripped by civil war in parts of the country since independence in 1948.
Both sides have agreed a code of conduct to ensure civilian safety, while “necessary plans will be made for resettlement of internally displaced persons”. Demining will also be undertaken.
Myanmar considers the KNU, whose leadership is based in Thailand, to be an illegal organisation. Its armed wing has been waging Myanmar’s oldest insurgency, battling the government since 1949.
Vast numbers of villagers in Karen state have been forced to flee and tens of thousands of these refugees live in camps across the border in Thailand.
Myanmar’s government signed a ceasefire deal with the group in January as part of reformist moves that also led to a by-election on Sunday that was swept by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party.
The KNU delegation plans to meet the democracy icon on Sunday in what will be Suu Kyi’s first important discussions as an elected politician.
The group has said it is keen to assess of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party and its commitment to reconciliation efforts.
The Nobel laureate is largely well-regarded in minority areas, but she is also seen as a member of an ethnic elite.
An end to ethnic minority conflicts, as well as alleged human rights abuses involving government troops, is a key demand of the international community.
While the government has inked ceasefires with a number of rebel groups, ongoing fighting in northern Kachin state, which has displaced tens of thousands of people, has cast a shadow over the peace efforts.
Authorities postponed the by-elections in three constituencies in the state, citing security concerns, and rights groups have claimed serious abuses continue in the area.
KNU spokeswoman May Oo Mutraw on Thursday said the KNU had lobbied the government to work harder on ending the Kachin conflict.
“It’s easy to start war but difficult to build peace, especially lasting peace,” she said.