NAYPYITAW — The third session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference kicked off in Naypyitaw on Wednesday and will continue through Monday. The National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), also known as the Mongla Group or Shan State Special Region 4, one of the armed ethnic groups that have signed bilateral ceasefire agreements with the government, is attending the conference. U Kyi Myint, the general secretary of the NDAA, talked to Irrawaddy reporter Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint about the prospects for peace in Myanmar.
How has the Mongla Group prepared for the third session of the Panglong Conference?
We have come to attend the conference at the invitation of the government. We have come as a 22-member delegation led by Vice Chairman Hsan Per.
The objective of the Panglong Conference is to bring about national reconciliation and peace. We strongly support that objective.
We signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in June 1989. Almost 30 years have passed. The guns have been silent since then. And we’re constantly engaged in developing our region. Why don’t you come and see Mongla? We’re enjoying the full benefits of peace.
Previously there were only dirt roads; now the roads are paved. And thatched houses have been replaced by high-rise buildings. Previously there were only monastic schools. Now we have modern schools and hospitals. Besides the 50-bed government hospital, we also have our own hospital. Things have changed a lot.
People can live an easy life now, unlike in the past. They are very sorry to see war refugees in other parts of the country. They pray for them.
So, we have come in the hope that the peace conference will bring about peace for the whole country.
The Mongla Group is an ally of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), which is a bloc of non-signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA). Will the Mongla hold talks with the FPNCC?
The government invited us separately. The government has not yet accepted the FPNCC. All the ethnic groups based along the border are attending [the conference] with the assistance of the Chinese government.
In fact, neither we nor the UWSA have security problems. There are ethnicities living across the border. There are Kachin, Bamar, Ta’ang, Shan, and Akha, as well as Chinese people. Clashes that happen inside the country have an impact on them. China gives us a lot of support. We accept that peace is important for the country and that’s why we’ve come here.
The UWSA, Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and Mongla do not oppose peace, or the NCA. Both we and the Wa signed truces in 1989. It has been around 30 years, and there has not been a single clash or territorial dispute. We don’t oppose the NCA.
But now the government says that while the previous agreement was signed in the presence of a few people, the new one [the NCA] will be signed in the presence of the international community, the Parliament, State leaders, military leaders and political parties, so it will last longer and be better. We and the Wa both accept it. We will sign when the time it appropriate. We can’t shun that path. Nobody can fight for their whole life.
In the past, both the Wa region and our own lagged behind in development. Now things have changed a lot. Some towns and districts in the country do not even match up to us.
If that is the case, what are the prospects of you signing the NCA?
I can’t predict the outcome, but we are negotiating.
Will the Mongla choose to sign the NCA or seek an alternative approach as the FPNCC has suggested?
The FPNCC was formed to hold political negotiations. But whether or not to sign the ceasefire is up to each group. Basically, there are three groups within the FPNCC: Those that have signed the truce, those that are constantly fighting [against government troops], and those who fight periodically.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. So, we focus mainly on political dialogue. The rest will depend on discussions between us. The FPNCC was formed to persuade the groups still involved in fighting to join the peace process. It does not encourage them to continue fighting.
Critics say the Wa and Mongla support the Northern Alliance. What is your response?
That is mainly because of the Kokang Group [also known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army-MNDAA]. The daughter of [Kokang leader] U Pheung Kya-shin is the wife of our chairman, U Sai Lin. So, they are relatives. We have sheltered the [Kokang] people who have fled [clashes between the Myanmar Army and MNDAA].
We have negotiated with the Tatmadaw about sheltering them. But there are certain things we don’t allow the Kokang to do [in NDAA areas], such as conducting military exercises, recruiting, and taking arms [from us] to fight [with the Myanmar Army]. The Wa have made the same request to them. We’ve urged the MNDAA to take the path of peace.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.