Holdout Armed Ethnic Groups Ready to Join Myanmar Peace Conference

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myanmar-tnla-troops-jan12-2014.jpg Ta'ang National Liberation Army soldiers march to mark the 51st anniversary of Ta'ang National Resistance Day in Homain, Nansan township, in northern Myanmar's Shan state, Jan. 12, 2014.

Three of Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups issued a statement on Thursday saying that they are prepared to join in the government’s Panglong Peace Conference at the end of this month if they receive an invitation, a leader from one of the armies said.

The Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) are all non-signatories to the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) that eight other armed ethnic groups signed with the previous Myanmar government last October.

“I want to tell them we are ready to participate at the Aug. 31 conference if we are invited,” said Colonel Ta Phone Kyaw, general secretary of the TNLA.

The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), headed by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi who is spearheading the Panglong Conference, decided earlier this week that all armed ethnic groups could attend the event in the capital Naypyidaw.

The UPDJC, composed of armed ethnic groups that signed the NCA, political party representatives, and government representatives, is overseeing the drafting process of the framework for political dialogue. They had met to determine the agenda for the conference.

“Based on the decision of the UPDJC … to accept all armed ethnic groups at the conference, we understand that all [armies] including our three-member alliance will have the opportunity to attend,” Ta Phone Kyaw said.

So far, the AA, MNDAA and TNLA have not received an invitation, but they are hopeful that one will arrive in time for the peace negotiations, he said.

At an Aug. 9 meeting between the AA, MNDAA, TNLA and the government’s Peace Commission in the Mongla area in Shan state, retired General Khin Zaw Oo, who is a commission member, told the three groups they had to release a statement pledging to lay down their arms in order to attend the Panglong Conference.

But all three armies, which have been involved in recent skirmishes with the Myanmar military, refused to disarm.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto national leader, has made peace and national reconciliation between Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups and the government military a priority of the country’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

Panglong Conference organizers are inviting about 700 delegates from the Myanmar government, national military, and armed ethnic groups to the negotiations.

UNFC to meet Peace Commission

In the meantime, the Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) will head to the commercial city Yangon on Friday for a meeting with Tin Myo Win, head of the government’s Peace Commission.

The UNFC, an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups that did not sign the NCA, is advocating for the formation of a federal union in Myanmar.

“Our main mission is to meet with Tin Myo Win as a follow-up to recent meetings concerning the peace process,” said Major General Gwan Maw, the DPN's deputy leader and a high-ranking officer in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

During their three-day meeting which begins Saturday, the DPN will discuss whether and how it should participate in the peace talks, he said.

UNFC leaders also held a two-day meeting in Chiang Mai to discuss whether they should attend the Panglong Conference.

In a related development, more than 3,000 people, including local politicians and national lawmakers, attended a rally on Thursday in Myitkyina, capital city of northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, to show their support for the Panglong Conference.

Ongoing clashes between armed ethnic soldiers and national army troops have occurred there as well as in northern Shan state.

“The civil war will end only if we can build a democratic federal union accepted by all,” Ko Ko, the emcee of the rally, told those who had gathered.

“We believe a democratic federal union can provide us real justice, the rule of law, and peaceful coexistence, so let’s give our full support to the conference,” he said.

Reported by Thiha Tun, Aung Moe Myint and Kyaw Myo Min for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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