(Reuters) - Myanmar's government has been in talks with more than a dozen ethnic minority rebel groups and political organizations as part of moves towards "everlasting peace" after decades of on-off conflict in its troubled border regions.
Western governments have made the end of fighting a condition for lifting sanctions. Preliminary ceasefire agreements had been reached with most groups, but battles still rage between the military and Kachin rebels near the northern border with China.
President Thein Sein has outlined a three-stage plan for talks with the 16 groups that responded to his call for dialogue in August 2011: ceasefire, political talks and resettlement of refugees, then a special session of parliament to cement long-term agreements.
Below are details of the talks by state, according to a document provided to Reuters by the government's Union Level Peace-Making Group, which is split into two negotiating teams.
- KACHIN STATE: Seven rounds of talks have taken place with the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, the latest on March 8, but without any agreement. Thein Sein has ordered troops in Kachin State not to attack the rebels, but they can defend themselves. The conflict resurfaced in June 2011, scuttling a 16-year truce and displacing an estimated 50,000 people.
The main hurdle in the ceasefire talks is the Kachins' insistence that "self-determination" be part of a preliminary ceasefire agreement. Thein Sein has said that is not up for discussion until the second phase of any dialogue. The KIA says the conflict has reached "total annihilation" stage.
- SHAN STATE: The Shan State Army (South) and its political arm, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), separately reached deals with the government on January 28 to end conflict in the drug-producing region bordering China and Thailand. Both sides agreed to cease fire, cooperate on drug suppression and set up liaison offices for further talks.
The government made peace with two groups linked to the powerful United Wa State Army (UWSA) in September 2011 at regional level and four months later at national level. The two wings were the Wa National Army 2 and the Mongla group. The UWSA, which once received support and arms from China, is considered Myanmar's most powerful rebel group, with an estimated 30,000 troops protecting an ethnic Chinese-dominated enclave it has controlled for decades. Much of its income is believed to derive from opium and in 2003 the United States classified the UWSA as a narcotics cartel.
- KAYAH STATE (Karenni State): A truce was reached with the Kayah Nationalities Progress Party (KNPP) on March 7.
- KAYIN STATE (Karen State): State negotiators reached truces between December and February with two delegations from the Karen movement, which has fought the government since 1949 along the border with Thailand. Agreements were reached with the Karen National Union (KNU) and its military arm, the Karen National Liberation Army.
The KNU started the second phase - political talks - with the government in Yangon on Friday.
A Karen rebel splinter faction, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), has reportedly agreed to join the process under a newly formed political wing called the Klohtoobaw Karen Organization (KKO).
- MON STATE: The New Mon State Party, which operates along the eastern border with Thailand, reached an agreement on February 1 at state level and signed a ceasefire deal with the national government on February 25.
- CHIN STATE: The Chin National Front, which fought for regional autonomy for 23 years, made a five-point ceasefire agreement with the Union Level Peace-Making Group on January 6.
- RAKHINE STATE (Arakan State): The National United Party of Arakan and Arakan Liberation Party, based in Myanmar's westernmost state, agreed a truce with the government on April 5.
The government has been in talks with the following groups and organizations. The status of the talks is not known.
* Pa-Oh National Liberation Organization (PNLO)
* Lahu Democratic Union (LDU)
* Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF)
Compiled Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel