Myanmar’s Panglong Peace Conference to Include All Armed Ethnic Groups

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myanmar-ethnic-leaders-peace-conference-jan12-2016.jpg Myanmar ethnic leaders and delegates arrive for the opening ceremony of a government peace conference in Naypyidaw, Jan. 12, 2016.

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday that all of the country’s armed ethnic groups will be invited to participate in the upcoming Panglong Peace Conference regardless of whether or not they have signed a nationwide peace pact with the government.

During a meeting with the government’s peace negotiations team in the capital Naypyidaw, Aung San Suu Kyi—Myanmar’s de facto national leader—urged representatives to make an effort to get along with representatives from all of the country’s ethnic groups as well as armed rebels, according to a post on her Facebook page.

Eight armed ethnic groups signed a nationwide peace agreement (NCA) with former president Thein Sein’s government last October, while others refused to do so or were excluded because of their involvement in ongoing hostilities with the Myanmar army.

Aung San Suu Kyi and government negotiators will meet with the groups that did not sign the NCA in mid-July to get their input for the national peace conference.

A delegation led by military lawmaker Thein Zaw will soon go to Minela township in eastern Myanmar near the Chinese border for talks with three groups that were excluded from the NCA—the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—to get them on board for the Panglong Peace Conference, said Zaw Htay, spokesman for the State Counselor’s Office.

The policies of the State Counselor's Office will be discussed with armed ethnic groups and political parties before the Panglong Conference—also known as the Union Peace Conference—is held during the last week of August, he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi has requested that the rules for those who can attend the Panglong Conference be adjusted so that the political parties whose representatives did not win in national elections last November can participate, he said.

“[Aung San Suu Kyi] has made it a policy to allow political parties that didn’t win in the elections to participate in the conference,” he said. “These parties will hold discussions with civil society organizations [CSOs] during the conference.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the general elections with more than 80 percent of the vote. More than 70 parties contested the elections.

“The political parties and CSOs don’t have the same agenda, so some political parties can persuade the CSOs to tell the conference attendees what the parties want,” he said.

State Counselor’s Office minister Kyaw Tint Swe, Panglong Conference committee chairman Tin Myo Win, Lieutenant General Yar Pyae, and the members of government peace conference subcommittees 1 and 2 attended the meeting.

Number-one priority

Aung San Suu Kyi has made peace and national reconciliation between Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups and the government military a priority of the NLD government.

Her father, General Aung San, arranged the first Panglong Conference in 1947 to grant autonomy to the Shan, Kachin, and Chin ethnic minorities before Myanmar gained 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 took up arms against the central government in wars that continued for decades.

Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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