Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is calling for all factions to be included in the newest round of peace talks between armed ethnic groups and the country's outgoing quasi-civilian government.
"In this time, based on the mandate, it is right to do what the people want us to do, we are ready to take the responsibility of building forever peace [within the country]. I hope everybody will help us," she said.
The Nobel Peace laureate made the remarks Tuesday on the opening day of negotiations in the capital Naypyitaw. Her speech marked her first involvement in the ongoing peace process, and could lay the groundwork for an eventual deal when her National League for Democracy takes power in March, four months after the party won a massive landslide in the country's first free elections in a quarter-century.
President Thein Sein and Myanmar's powerful army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, were also in attendance for Tuesday's opening round. Thein Sein's government had been negotiating with rebel forces since taking power in 2011 from the long-ruling military junta; those efforts culminated with a ceasefire agreement with some of the rebel groups, who have been fighting for years for greater autonomy.
But many rebel groups either refused to participate in the earlier talks or to sign the agreement, and fighting has continued between the rebels and the government.
Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from assuming the presidency because her late husband was British, as are their two sons. But the 70-year-old leader says she will rule through a proxy president, who will be elected when the new NLD-led parliament takes power. She must establish a working relationship with the military, which automatically controls 25 percent of all parliamentary seats under the 2008 constitution and maintains control of several key government posts, including defense, interior and border security.