By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY
The New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Burmese government reached a tentative five-point agreement on Wednesday following a second round of peace talks held in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, according to Mon sources.
Nai Soe Myit, one of the NMSP representatives who took part in the talks, told The Irrawaddy that the two sides agreed to stop fighting; to hold political talks at the Union government level; to open liaison offices; not to allow weapons to be held in certain restricted areas; and to base troops only at agreed-upon locations.
The NMSP leaders did not sign the agreement on Wednesday, but will present it at a Central Committee meeting to be held next week. If approved, the agreement could be signed in the third week of February.
The Mon delegation, led by NMSP Vice-Chairman Nai Rot Sa, included seven senior party members, four Mon community leaders and three Mon Buddhist monks.
At the meeting, the government's chief negotiator, Railways Minister Aung Min, also agreed to a request from the Mon delegation to allow the Mon language to be used in schools and to release two Mon political prisoners, Min Nay Win (aka Nai Yekha) and Min Myo Thwe, who are currently serving life sentences.
“Aung Min told us that his government will release Mon political prisoners when the NMSP becomes a legal party,” said Nai Soe Myit.
The Mon leaders said that the decision to allow students in predominantly Mon areas to use their native language in public schools was also mentioned by Ohn Myint, the chief minister of Mon State, during dinner on Tuesday evening.
Regarding future political discussions, the NMSP repeated its calls for a nationwide ceasefire that includes all ethnic armed groups, and said it wants talks on political issues to take place within 45 days, with the participation of outside observers.
After the first phase of bilateral talks, the NMSP wants to take part in multilateral negotiations that include other ethnic political parties and the opposition National League for Democracy, the Mon leaders said.
Nai Soe Myit said that the agreement reached on Wednesday was unlike the one the NMSP signed in 1995 with former military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt because this time, political talks were on the table.
Also an the agenda was economic development. Aung Min told the Mon leaders that they should open an economic zone in Three Pagodas Pass, in NMSP-controlled territory on the Thai-Burmese border, and invite Thai companies, according to sources.
The NMSP held its first peace talks with Aung Min on Dec. 22 in the Thai border town of Sangkhlaburi, near Three Pagodas Pass.