World

8 ethnic rebel armies sign cease-fire pact with Myanmar government; major groups stay away

Myanmar President Thein Sein, right, sits along with Mutu Say Po, chairman of Karen National Union (KNU), for a group photo session during the signing ceremony of "Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement" Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Myanmar's government and eight smaller ethnic rebel armies signed the cease-fire agreement to end more than six decades of fighting, but other more powerful groups refused to come on board, signaling that peace will remain elusive for some time to come. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

Myanmar President Thein Sein, right, sits along with Mutu Say Po, chairman of Karen National Union (KNU), for a group photo session during the signing ceremony of "Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement" Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Myanmar's government and eight smaller ethnic rebel armies signed the cease-fire agreement to end more than six decades of fighting, but other more powerful groups refused to come on board, signaling that peace will remain elusive for some time to come. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)  (The Associated Press)

Myanmar's government has signed a cease-fire agreement with eight ethnic rebel armies but the more powerful groups have refused to come on board.

The agreement was signed Thursday at a ceremony in Myanmar's administrative capital. The refusal of the larger groups to sign it robs President Thein Sein of what he had hoped would be the crowning achievement of his five-year term.

Still, it is seen as a first step toward ending six decades of fighting between the government, dominated by the Burmese majority, and various minority ethnic groups demanding autonomy and control over their natural resources.

Ethnic groups, representing 40 percent of the 53 million population, have found themselves victims of military abuses and discrimination in areas spanning from health and education to road construction and access to electricity.