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A Kayin State village, in an undated file photo. Ethnic minority groups have differing peceptions of what federalism will mean for them. Photo: Mizzima
A Kayin State village, in an undated file photo. Ethnic minority groups have differing peceptions of what federalism will mean for them. Photo: Mizzima

After more than three years and a dozen meetings the Government Peace-Making Work Committee and the Nationwide Ceasefire Co-ordination Team announced during the latest round of talks that the pledge to adopt a federal system, a key demand of the ethnic minorities, has been included in the draft text of the national peace accord.

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An historic tripartite meeting among representatives of the Government of Myanmar, political parties and ethnic armed groups took place at the Myanmar Peace Center on August 18. It was an historic event in the sense that they met for the first time in Myanmar's history. It was also significant that the meeting took place on the third anniversary of the beginning of the peace process.

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'Federalism is no longer a taboo subject and it no longer appears to be a distant prospect in Myanmar'

In my writings a decade ago, I predicted that federalism was a distant objective for Myanmar. I supported federalism but given the political and conflict conditions then I was not wrong to make such as assumption.

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Propaganda-poster-for-KIA
Propaganda poster for the Kachin Independence Army.

There is not a conversation or discussion on the Myanmar peace process that does not include two words: “trust” and “distrust”. As far as the peace process is concerned, no matter who speaks on any given occasion, the two words are either mentioned in passing or featured prominently.

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The timing was conspiciously reminiscent of old junta tactics. Two days before newly appointed UN special human rights rapporteur Ms Yanghee Lee wrapped up her first visit to Myanmar with a highly publicised news conference at Yangon International Airport on July 26, the government extended its hand to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

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It has been a busy few days for the Union Government. On July 24, Medecins Sans Frontières was invited to resume operations in Rakhine State. Two days later at the end of her first to Myanmar as UN special rapporteur on human rights, Ms Yanghee Lee issued a statement which included criticism of the situation in Rakhine State and the direction of the reform process, which the government countered in a public response.

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