Ethnic leaders in Shan and Kachin states announced their support on Wednesday for the Myanmar government’s upcoming Panglong Conference, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s ambitious plan to end multiple armed conflicts and bring peace to the Southeast Asian nation.
The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) of eastern Myanmar’s Shan state, and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) of northern Myanmar said they would support Aung San Suu Kyi’s plans to hold the major peace conference slated for late July.
Leaders from the armed groups signed an agreement welcoming the peace conference, following a two-day consultation meeting on the Panglong Conference in Chaing Mai, Thailand, said KIO leader General Gwan Maw.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto national leader, intends to include all rebel groups in what she says will be a 21st-century Panglong Conference before the next steps in political dialogue are taken.
Her father, General Aung San, held talks known as the Panglong Conference in February 1947 to grant autonomy to the Shan, Kachin, and Chin ethnic minorities. But his assassination five months later prevented the agreements from reaching fruition, and many ethnic groups then took up arms against the central government in wars that went on for decades.
KIO vice chairman General N’Ban La, Shan State Army-South commander Lieutenant General Yawd Serk, and SSPP spokesperson Sai Htoo led the discussion among ethnic group participants at the meeting, Gwan Maw said.
“We welcome the second Panglong Conference as the [original] ethnic groups that signed the first Panglong Agreement,” he said.
“We reviewed and discussed how we can participate in upcoming meetings and how to approach people,” he said. “We all welcome the second Panglong Conference and will hold it while trying not to lose the essence of the [original] Panglong Conference.”
The Chin National Front (CNF), which was invited to the meeting but was unable to attend, indicated that it will accept the agreement as well, he said.
DPN must decide
The leaders of the armed ethnic groups must still hold talks with the other members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—an alliance of armed ethnic groups that did not sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the previous government last October.
The UNFC includes the KIO and SSPP, but not the RCSS and CNF.
The rebel groups comprising the UNFC did not sign the peace pact, because they objected to the exclusion of certain armed ethnic groups and disagreed with the political dialogue framework drafted by the signatories.
Government peace negotiators will hold a review meeting on the framework for political dialogue on Thursday, although the UNFC’s Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) has yet to decide whether to attend.
The Union Peace Conference Preparation Committee, led by government peace envoy Tin Myo Win, held a meeting with the DPN last week to invite its members to the political dialogue framework meeting scheduled for Thursday.
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government sees the participation of the non-signatories to the NCA in the Panglong Conference as vital. It wants to get them on board by first getting them to collaborate on a political dialogue framework, and then having them sign the NCA.
Reported by Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.