Myanmar President Meets Rebels for Peace Talks

Myanmar President Meets Rebels for Peace TalksMyanmar President Meets Rebels for Peace Talks

Myanmar President Thein Sein on Wednesday made his first public appearance since the start of a campaign for Nov. 8 general elections, meeting leaders of ethnic minority guerrilla groups for ceasefire talks in the capital Naypyitaw.

Clinching a deal with rebel groups would be a political win for Sein, who made it his top priority, boosting the chances of his ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in the first general elections since the end of military rule, Reuters reported.

But a deal with all ethnic armies is unlikely, experts say, with some groups excluded from the talks, as fighting in the restive Kokang region along Myanmar’s border with China has continued unabated since February.

“I’d like to stress the importance of peace in the transition to democracy,” Sein said at the opening of the talks. “Without peace, it is not possible. I hope today’s summit will pave the way to signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement by the end of September.”

Sein has proposed Sept. 29 for the signing, a source who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic said.

The president is not running in the elections, but the Myanmar Constitution allows lawmakers, who select the president, to vote for a person from outside parliament, giving Thein Sein a chance of reelection.

The draft of the ceasefire was hammered out during almost two years of grueling negotiations, but ethnic armed groups had refused to sign it, urging the government to grant ethnic minorities more autonomy.