Thursday, May 25, 2017

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Union Peace Conference—21st Century Panglong 2nd Session

 May 24, 2017
Specially Invited Guests, Delegates,


Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to see you here today, and may I wish you all health and happiness.
What I see here before me, in this hall, is the potential of our country. Here, together, are the foundations upon which we  can build our dream  of peace.

All who are participating in this Conference enjoy the  privilege of, and  bear the responsibility for, turning the dreams so long cherished by our people into reality. Peace and stability will enable our nation to realize its potential as a strong, prosperous democratic federal Union, a Union that will be the refuge and the pride of all our  peoples.

The next few days will witness intense discussions, exchanges of views, debates and difficult decisions.
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 to dispel the other. If we all face this  challenge,  one  of the greatest we have had to face in the history of  our  country,  in a spirit of Union, with faith in our ability to forge an honourable future, our triumph will be a triumph not just for the Conference or for our nation but for all the peoples of our world who long for peace, who value harmony above dissension, friendship above  enmity,  prosperity  above devastation.

At this Union Peace Conference we have now reached the stage where we are able to discuss the basic federal principles  that are so  important for  our country  and  our  people. Together  we  are embarking  on a  new chapter in our history that will help us to realise the long-held aspirations of our people.

At this opening ceremony I would like to apprise the people of our Union of our three paramount aims.

First is the goal that we are striving to achieve. Almost everyone accepts that the resolution to our country’s long-running armed conflicts is a federal system that is acceptable to all. Our goal is therefore the “emergence of a democratic federal union based on democracy and federalism”. Whether or not we will achieve this goal rests in all of our hands. It is a responsibility that falls on all of our shoulders. I do not think that any of us would wish to avoid, reject or shrink away from this responsibility. The energy, faith and effort that we put in to achieving peace can be a beacon of light for our country, our Union, and all of our peoples. Whether this light will fade or brighten in the months and years ahead will determine Myanmar’s place in this world.

This Conference will have to discuss and approve the basic principles  that will form the foundations for the establishment of our democratic federal. union. In the months since the completion of the first  Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong, we have worked to draw up these basic principles.

If we look back at our country’s history, soon after the 20th Century Panglong Agreement and our Independence, we succumbed to the fires of internal conflict. For nearly seventy years, peace, stability and development in Myanmar have fallen victim to conflict. Our people over successive generations have seen their socio-economic situation and morale undermined, while our country’s future has been gradually corroded. Even today, Myanmar has not yet been able to escape from  the trap of poverty and conflict, and great efforts will be needed if we are to catch up with the rest of the world. Our people have been waiting for almost seventy years to witness the ray of hope for a better future that this conference represents.
The second issue is the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. The NCA opened the door to the holding of this Union peace conference and to the emergence of political dialogue. The NCA itself came about through negotiation with our ethnic nationalities.

If we look back throughout our history, many different ceasefires have been signed, but there were no guarantees that the ceasefires would be maintained firmly and that there would be  a  subsequent  political dialogue. The NCA came about through the belief that it was  necessary  to have an agreement, to which both sides were committed, that would provide such guarantees. We were not part of the discussions while the NCA was being negotiated. But we fully accepted the duties and responsibilities of government, and after  discussion  and  consultation  with individuals and organisations involved in the peace process, we ourselves  took this path.

Compared to peace processes elsewhere in the world, Myanmar’s NCA, with its strong ceasefire process and guarantee of political dialogue, can be seen as an acceptable ceasefire agreement.  But our  intention  is not to stop at the ceasefire stage. It is to achieve lasting peace through political dialogue. In our country’s history, we have had many  different types of ceasefire. But, as everyone is aware, for a variety of reasons these ceasefires fell apart. We recognise that ceasefire negotiations can address surface problems, but only political dialogue can address underlying grievances. As such the NCA itself is not the ultimate destination. The NCA opens the door to political dialogue. I would  here  like to take this opportunity to thank all those people who have worked hard to bring about the NCA that marks the start of this   path.

Thirdly, I would like to discuss the principles on which we base dialogue. Our government was chosen by the people  in  the  2015  general elections. As our country moves forward, we determine  the  steps  we need to take after discussions with all stakeholders, in accordance with  our principle of national reconciliation. We will not resort to exerting pressure through populist politics, or coercing others t_hrough political means to achieve our goals. We will instead  strive  to  reach  an agreement that is acceptable to all, based on open, frank and inclusive dialogue.

As we negotiate to reach common agreements on issues  where  our  views differ, we must recognise that courtesy is not  weakness,  negotiation is not concession.  Honesty,  trust,  awareness  and  wisdom are necessary for negotiations to succeed. We should not be afraid of negotiating with anybody.  Rather than focusing on the problems that   can exacerbate our differences, we must seek to  identify the  issues which can help to strengthen unity between us. Through dialogue, we can develop understanding, friendship, and empathy. We are better able to identify common ground if we meet face to face  and  negotiate,  rather than if we listen from afar to the words and speeches of others and seek  to draw conclusions from them. Our government, the Tatmadaw, ethnic armed organisations and political parties have had to negotiate long and patiently to identify basic federal  principles.

As in peace dialogues across the world, during the first year of our new government we have exp rienced many  highs  and  lows,  progression and regression. But at today’s conference, it can be said that our  collective efforts  have started to bear fruit.  We  have now held a series   of dialogues based on the submissions resulting from national political dialogues and from various groups. The recent UPDJC  meeting  discussed and approved 41 basic principles that were accepted  by all. Now we must all embark together, hand in hand, on the long journey ahead. Through unity, empathy, solidarity  and the  Panglong  spirit, we  will strive to overcome the challenges that we will encounter along the way.
As we look ahead, I hope that 2017 can be designated the “Year of Peace”, and that as we pursue political dialogue, we can work towards identifying the principles that will form the basic foundations  of  our  federal system. At the same time, we will keep open  the  door  to  dialogue with non-signatory ethnic armed organisations, and strive  to bring them under the umbrella of the  NCA.

In conclusion, I would like to express my deep appreciation to those who have made it possible for us to gather here today in hope and fellowship, our people who have been with us all along the way on  this  arduous  road, and our friends who, in the timeless spirit of friendship, have been staunch in their understanding, steadfast in their trust and unflagging in their efforts to help us overcome the many difficulties with which we are faced. The best way in which we can thank them is by keeping true and resolute in our quest for peace, and this we shall  do.

Thank you.

Ref; The Global New Light of Myanmar

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