(Mizzima) – The New Mon State Party (NMSP) signed a four-point preliminary peace agreement with the Burmese Union government on Sunday, according to state-run television.
The four-point agreement, which stems from a state-level meeting on Feb. 1, was signed in Mawlamyine, the capital of the Mon State in southern Burma.
NMSP Vice Chairman Naing Yao Sa and the government peacemaking group leader Aung Min, who is also the Minister of Rail Transportation, signed the agreement.
The four points concern seeking ethnic peace across the country, holding political talks within 45 days, coordination on regional development deals in the sectors of education, social affairs, health and ethnic affairs, the release of all political prisons and granting open access to political parties, nongovernmental organizations and the media. The earlier agreement focused on opening liaison offices and settlement of NMSP members at mutually agreed locations.
The NMSP was among the groups that rejected becoming members of the government's border guard forces.
So far, nine ethnic armed groups out of 11 have reached preliminary peace pacts with the government at respective levels. The groups are the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Shan State (North) Special Region-2, the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) in Mongla Special Region-4, Koloh Htoo Baw armed group in Kayin state, Chin National Front (CNF) in northwestern Chin state, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) of Shan State Army (SSA)-South, Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) of SSA-North, Kayin National Union (KNU) and the Kayin National Liberation Army (KNLA) in Kayin state.
In other peace negotiation news, talks between the central government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) were underway in Ruili, China, but after two months no agreement has been achieved.
President Thein Sein told all armed ethnic groups in August 2011 that peace negotiations would be carried out in three steps: first a cease-fire, second, set up liaison offices and travel regulations, signing regional development deals, followed by agreements in Parliament. The government has conducted a rash of peace negotiations in hope of ending all armed conflicts prior to the April 1 by-election.
Mon separatists formed the Mon Peoples Front, which was superseded by the New Mon State Party (NMSP). Since 1949, the eastern hills of the state (as well as portions of Thaninthaya Division) have been under control of Mon armed groups. Resistance continued until 1995, when the NMSP agreed to a cease-fire. International organizations have repeatedly accused the Burmese government of human rights violations in Mon State, including forced labor, arbitrary detention, forced resettlement and property confiscation.