CNF to Proceed with National-Level Political Dialogue

By Nyein Nyein 14 February 2017

Ethnic armed group and nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) signatory Chin National Front (CNF) has been permitted to hold a national-level political dialogue in Thantlang Township of Chin State after it was repeatedly told not to do so by the government’s Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC).

“We are now able to implement a key task outlined by the NCA process,” said CNF central committee member Pu Ram Kulh Cung, who is also the coordinator of the Chin National Dialogue Joint Committee (CNDJC).

The national-level political dialogue is a mandatory step of the NCA in which regional stakeholders express their suggestions and recommendations at large-scale public consultations which are then shared by representatives at the Union Peace Conference.

The CNF has tentatively set the date for the dialogue as next Thursday to Saturday after the government’s peace commission secretary former Lt-Gen Kin Zaw Oo informed the CNF on Monday night that it could convene the consultations, said Pu Ram Kulh Cung.

Two NCA signatories—the CNF and the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP)—were repeatedly told not to hold a national-level political dialogues, in Chin and Arakan states respectively, at the UPDJC meeting on Monday last week.

The ALP, however, had not received a response from the government despite requesting permission to hold their own consultations, according to the organization’s vice chairperson Saw Mra Yaza Lin on Tuesday.

The CNF proposed Chin State capital Hakha to host the consultations, said Pu Ram Kulh Cung, but the government requested they instead be held in Thantlang Township, some 35 km west of Hakha and close to the CNF headquarters.

The CNF has led four smaller public consultations in Chin State, including in Paletwa Township from November 2016 to January 2017.

Salai David Van Bawi Mang—a Chin civil society group representative to the CNDJC—said permission should have been granted earlier as the CNF now has very limited time to convene the consultations.

CNDJC said in a Sunday statement that the national dialogue was necessary in order to gather “the collective voices” of the ethnic Chin.

NCA signatory Karen National Union completed its national-level dialogue in January, while the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front conducted consultations in Mandalay, Rangoon, Irrawaddy, Bago, Tenasserim, and Magwe divisions.

The government led dialogues in Tenasserim Division and plan further consultations in Bago Division this week.

Later this week, ethnic Pa-O will hold a Pa-O national-level dialogue in Hopong Township of Shan state, from Thursday until next Monday.

The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) is still collecting opinions through 13 smaller consultations.

“We will know the date and venue [of the national-level dialogue] after the UPDJC meeting in Taunggyi on Wednesday,” said Col Sai La, the spokesperson of the RCSS.

The Burma Army reportedly does not want any major public gathering in cities after the KNU’s public consultation had an unexpectedly large turnout in the Karen State capital of Hpa-an last month.

But the RCSS’s Col Sai La said optimistically that “it is an ongoing process step by step. I think they [the UPDJC] want to organize it systematically.”

He also said he believes the national-level political dialogues will be successful, since the initial Karen State dialogue was completed successfully.