YANGON - Myanmar's government started talks on Friday towards a political agreement with one of the world's oldest rebel armies, marking one of the biggest steps taken by the country's civilian rulers after decades of conflict with ethnic minority insurgents.
The talks with the Karen National Union (KNU) were the beginning of the second stage of a three-phase plan outlined by the year-old government towards "everlasting peace" with all of its ethnic minority rebel groups.The first phase was to establish ceasefires, at regional then national level. Two government negotiating groups have struck agreements with about a dozen armies or ethnic-based political groups that responded to President Thein Sein's call for dialogue last August.
"We now have six points on our agenda at the present talks at the union (national) level," Tu Tu Lay, a member of the KNU team, told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting in the commercial capital, Yangon.
The KNU and its military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), have fought successive governments for greater autonomy since 1949, a year after Myanmar gained independence from Britain.