Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s military commander on Wednesday opened a major conference with representatives of ethnic minority groups to try to move toward a lasting peace after seven decades of strained relations and armed conflict.“I am worried that any delay in the peace conference could affect our people’s chance to get peace,” said Suu Kyi in a speech to the attendees. “That is the reason we are trying today to solve the problems politically by this peace conference.”The third session of the 21st Century Panglong Conference is scheduled to last five days and follows meetings held in August 2016 and May 2017. Those sessions failed to make much headway in resolving differences between the government, the military and ethnic rebel groups seeking greater autonomy.In his speech on the conference’s opening day, military commander Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing urged all stakeholders in the peace process to swiftly reach an agreement, citing the delay in the peace process as contributing to the lagging development of the country. “Bold steps must be taken without delay in implementing the peace process,” he said, urging groups to prioritize peace over political demands. “The sound of guns will become silent if all the groups with the true wish for peace observe the agreement.”Since 2015, the government has promoted a cease-fire agreement that several ethnic minority groups have signed. However, some other major rebel groups, especially in the country’s north, are wary of committing to the deal until political terms are made clearer. They also have accused the government of provocative armed aggression. “If we are expecting peace in the whole union, we need to work on the cease-fire process first,” said Doi Bu, a member of the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State, where clashes between Myanmar’s military and armed ethnic groups have displaced thousands.Published in Daily Times, July 12th 2018.