YANGON, Myanmar – Representatives from Myanmar's ethic rebel groups and the government gathered in the capital on Wednesday for peace talks aimed at ending decades of ethnic rebellions in the country.
Delegates filled a conference hall in Naypyitaw for the start of the five-day talks, which come nine months after a first round of talks was held.
Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, faces high expectations from ethnic groups and the international community to end conflicts between ethnic armed groups and the army that have lasted for nearly seven decades.
Suu Kyi said Wednesday that her government would not pressure the ethnic groups into a peace deal, and would allow for open negotiations.
"We will not resort to exerting pressure through populist politics to achieve our goals, but we will instead strive to reach an agreement acceptable to all with open, frank and inclusive dialogue," she said during her opening speech.
Despite overtures made by Suu Kyi, ongoing clashes between the army and the ethnic armed groups continue in some parts of Myanmar. In Kachin State, in the country's north, more than 100,000 people have been forced from their homes over the past six years due to ongoing fighting between the groups and government troops.
Suu Kyi's government has invited ethnic armed groups that have not signed a nationwide cease-fire agreement as "special guests" at the peace conference, but did not guarantee that they would have equal rights to participate in the dialogue. The United Nationalities Federal Councils, which represents non-signatories, refused to attend the conference.
In October 2015, eight ethnic armed groups signed the cease-fire agreement. But more than a dozen others, including some of Myanmar's largest armed groups, did not endorse the pact, which they viewed as lacking inclusiveness.