Army Supports Peace Conference, Senior-General Says

By The Irrawaddy 23 May 2016

RANGOON — The Burma Army supports the government’s proposed “Panglong-style” peace summit, but continued political participation rests on the country’s stability, said Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, during his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Naypyidaw on Sunday.

The meeting followed talks between Kerry and Burma’s foreign affairs minister and de-facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

A Facebook post by Min Aung Hlaing said Kerry praised the Burma Army, also known as the Tatmadaw, for its role in the country’s historic political transition and for supporting a free and fair election last November, as it had earlier promised to do.

“The US believes Burma’s progress depends on these developments,” said the post, quoting Kerry.

The two sides discussed preparations for a second “Panglong-style” peace conference, relations between the army and Burma’s new government, their respective armed forces and regional relations.

The senior-general said that the army would support a second Panglong conference.

“We will give suggestions and hold talks on the issues while upholding any agreement reached by the government, the army and the ethnic armed groups,” he said, adding that the army was working under the leadership of President Htin Kyaw.

The first Panglong conference was held by Suu Kyi’s father, Gen. Aung San, in 1947 and resulted in an agreement granting self-determination to some of the country’s main ethnic minority groups.

Less than a year after its signing, Aung San was assassinated and the agreement was never realized, plunging the country into decades of civil war.

While Suu Kyi remains determined to emulate her father’s successful negotiations, ongoing clashes, longstanding distrust and underlying tensions will prove to be substantial obstacles, regardless of the army’s support.

Kerry said that he would like to promote relations between the country’s respective armed forces while focusing on the peace process, national reconciliation and amending the 2008 Constitution.

Min Aung Hlaing said it was necessary for the United States to bear in mind the current situation of the nation and take into account the recent positive political trends.

He thanked the United States for easing sanctions it had imposed on Burma and expressed his firm belief this would benefit both sides. He added that the United States should continue to decide how to incentivize Burma in line with the success of its reform process.