Thursday, May 25, 2017

A second chance for peace

May 24, 2017
The Union Peace Conference—21st Century Panglong 2nd Session held

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi opened a second round of talks with the country’s many ethnic armed groups yesterday, looking to renew a quest for peace after a year in which fighting continued in some northern regions.

The Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong 2nd session that began yesterday came after a challenging year during which tensions between ethnic armed groups intensified. But the State Counsellor said she remained upbeat about the future.

“During the first year of our new government, we experienced many highs and lows, progression and regression”, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday in Nay Pyi Taw.

“But at today’s conference, it can be said that our collective efforts have started to bear fruit.”

One of the most positive signs came days before the conference began when it was reported that several ethnic groups that had recently clashed with government troops, and whose attendance had been in question, would be joining the negotiations.

Three previously excluded groups — the Kokang, Ta’ang and Arakan armed ethnic groups — are attending the Union Peace Conference for the first time as special guests.

The development drew praise from expert analysts.

“The fact that there will be more of them in the room is a positive development”, said Yangon-based analyst and former United Nations diplomat Richard Horsey.

In her opening speech yesterday, the State Counsellor said she had three main goals for the conference.
Ending decades of near-constant civil war and then establishing a federal union is her top priority, which she sees as key to unlocking the resource-rich country’s potential and guaranteeing basic development for its more than 50 million people.

“Almost everyone agrees that the resolution to our country’s long-running armed conflicts is a federal system that is acceptable to all,” she said yesterday in her opening speech. “Our goal is therefore the emergence of a democratic federal union based on democracy and federalism.”

The State Counsellor’s second goal would be for all parties to sign a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

“Our intention is not to stop at the ceasefire stage,” she said. “It is to achieve lasting peace through political dialogue. The NCA opens the door to political dialogue.”

The final goal of the conference, the State Counsellor said, would be to discuss the principles on which political dialogue will be based.

“Our government was chosen by the people in the 2015 general elections. As our country moves forward, we decide on the steps we need to take after discussions with all stakeholders, in accordance with our principle of national reconciliation”, she said.

“I want to hope for the best. But this is not an easy process,” an ethnic Shan woman told Reuters in Yangon. “No side wants to change their current position and lose or reduce their power and opportunities.”

But the State Counsellor said peace could be achieved if all participants kept an open mind and were amenable to negotiation.

“The next few days will witness intense discussions, exchanges of views, debates and difficult decisions”, she said. “This conference will be a forum where hopes and fears can be aired, and from thence, ways and means found to fulfil the one and dispel the other”.

The opening ceremony of the second session of the Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panlong was attended by President U Htin Kyaw, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Vice-Presidents U Myint Swe and U Henry Van Thio, Speaker of Pyithu Hluttaw U Win Myint, Speaker of Amyotha Hluttaw Mahn Win Khaing Than, Chief Justice of the Union U Htun Htun Oo, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Chairman of the Constitutional Tribunal U Myo Nyunt, Chairman of the Union Election Commission U Hla Thein, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Commander-in-Chief (Army) Vice-Senior General Soe Win, deputy speakers of Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw, the chairman of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Legal Affairs  and Special  Cases Assessment Commission, Union ministers, Union Attorney-General, Union Auditor-General, the chairman of the Union Civil Service Selection Board, the chairman of the Peace Commission, Chairman of the Nay Pyi Taw Council Dr Myo Aung, chief ministers of regions and states, Chief of  Staff (Army, Navy and Air), senior military officers, chairmen of Hluttaw committees, representatives of the government, Hluttaw and the Tatmadaw,  representatives of the ethnic armed organisations, chairmen and representatives of the political parties, representatives of the signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement including Chin National Front (CNF), All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP,) Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), Karen National Union (KNU), Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (Peace Council) (KNU/KNLA {PC}), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), and representatives of non-signatories to the NCA including Wa National Unity Party, United Wa State Army (UWSP/UWSA), Arakan Army (AA), Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), National Democratic  Alliance Army (NDAA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army-MNDAA, Shan State Progressive Party-SSPP/SSA and Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army, diplomats and personnel from the UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.

The conference resumes today and will continue until Sunday.
GNLM/Reuters contributed to this report

Ref; The Global New Light of Myanmar

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