UWSA Peace Delegate: Observer Status Restrictions Made Us Uncomfortable

By Nang Seng Nom 2 September 2016

The delegation from the United Wa State Army (UWSA) walked out of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference on its second day in session on Thursday, with the UWSA’s southern liaison officer leading his four delegates and their staff out of the convention hall, citing unequal treatment. On Thursday, the Burmese government’s peace commission sent a letter to Pao Yu Xiang, the UWSA chairman, explaining that the government views all ethnic armed groups at the peace conference equally. They requested that he excuse the inconvenience caused by mismanagement that led to the UWSA delegation being temporarily identified as “observers” rather than participants. The Irrawaddy’s Nang Seng Nom spoke with deputy liaison officer Nyi Yax, one of the members of the Wa delegation, about the UWSA’s unexpected exit.

Why did your delegation leave the 21st Century Panglong Conference?

U Khin Zaw Oo [the government peace negotiator] said that we did not contact them immediately when we arrived in Naypyidaw. But we did report our arrival. There was not sufficient accommodation for us. Ours is a ten-member delegation. We reported that we would lodge at the Myat Yadanar Hotel. Then they told us to take our [ID] cards [to attend the conference]. So we did, and then we lost contact.

The following day, we attended the conference. While we were there, we found that our cards were not equal [since they were observers’ cards and not participants’ cards] and we reported that [to the conference organizing committee]. They ushered us to our seats. They said access was restricted in the dining room and press conference room for security reasons according to their rules and regulations. We don’t blame them for it. But we reported to our central executive committee that there are such-and-such restrictions, and the committee instructed us not to accept the cards even if they were changed. And we left the conference according to the instructions of the central committee.

What do you want to say about the government giving you observers’ cards?

We had come to the conference with full support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and also brought along a paper [statement] to read. But then, the cards turned out to be observers’ cards. [The government officials] said they would come and change the cards, and then they said that the cards had run out. We didn’t know what we should believe and we felt uncomfortable. We contacted them immediately once we arrived. They knew where we were staying.

You had at first planned to read a paper at the peace conference, but then you left the conference. What do you want to say about it?

We have handed our paper to them [the government officials]. And I don’t remember exactly what was said in the paper.

The government side said that your delegation did not report your arrival and did not stay at the hotel they had arranged for you. What do you want to say about it?

If we didn’t report it, how could we get the cards—through the air?

What do you expect from the Panglong Conference?

We support the conference. We left because we didn’t like the accommodation, the environment and the way they treated us. I want to see peace prevail in the entire country. We came to the conference for peace.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.