Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief has vowed that the country’s powerful military will cooperate with government negotiators and armed ethnic organizations to ensure the success of Aung San Suu Kyi’s 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference in August.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing made the comment during a meeting Wednesday in the capital Naypyidaw with the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST)—leaders from the eight armed ethnic groups that signed a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the government last October—said Arakan Liberation Party leader Saw Mra Razar Lin, who was among the attendees.
“The army has full responsibility with regard to the democracy process being in place and will fully cooperate and help,” Saw Mya Raza Lin told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“The army side also expressed that it will do its utmost and fully cooperate so that the 21st Century Panglong Conference can take place,” she said.
Min Aung Hlaing also welcomed armed ethnic groups that did not sign the NCA to participate in the conference, she said. These ethnic armies had previously been excluded from talks.
The conference, which was originally expected to be held in late July, is State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s ambitious plan to end multiple armed conflicts in Myanmar and bring peace to the Southeast Asian nation.
However, the President’s Office told media on Tuesday that armed ethnic groups and the government decided to hold the conference—also called the Union Peace Conference—no later than the final week of August.
Towards a federal union
Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups will hold a summit in Mai Ja Yang, northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, in July to discuss their participation in the Panglong Peace Conference. All such groups will be invited to the summit.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de factor national leader, wants to end civil wars in Myanmar and establish lasting peace and a federal democratic union that guarantees the freedom of all ethnic nationalities.
She has invited members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of armed ethnic organizations that did not sign the NCA, to participate in the peace conference.
The government, however, has yet to announce plans to meet with the three rebel groups currently engaged in hostilities with the Myanmar army—the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, arranged the first Panglong Conference in 1947 to grant autonomy to the Shan, Kachin, and Chin ethnic minorities when he was head of an interim government as Myanmar prepared to gain its independence from colonial rule by Britain.
But his assassination in July 1947 prevented the agreements made during the conference from reaching fruition, and many ethnic groups then took up arms against the central government in wars that ground on for decades.
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Nyein Shwe. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.