YANGON – State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will chair peace talks in Moulmein, Mon State, this month.
This will be the seventh round of peace talks the State Counselor has chaired over the past 18 months, following talks in Naypyitaw (twice), Shan State, Mandalay Region, Kayah State and Irrawaddy Region.
Mon State and Union officials, along with members of civil society organizations (CSOs), met at the Mon State Government office on Tuesday to discuss details and the issues to be highlighted during the peace talks.
Officials declined to discuss details of Tuesday’s meeting or the planned talks. State Counselor’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Mon State-based CSOs said the planned peace talks in Mon State had not been heavily publicized, adding that they had only heard second-hand information about the talks on Tuesday — two days before the talks are reportedly due to begin on June 14.
The situation is markedly different from the lead-up to peace talks in Panglong, Shan State in February 2017, when CSOs were informed of the planned talks about 10 days beforehand, said Min Aung Htoo, a coordinator of the Mon State CSOs Network who participated in those talks.
Mon State CSO members and Mon youth whom The Irrawaddy spoke to on Tuesday said that notwithstanding the NLD leader’s efforts to hold such talks, the most important thing was to be able to reduce the fighting in the northern part of the country and implement federal democratic principles through the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference process.
“Talk alone is not enough. Peace talks have been held five or six times, so we don’t have high expectations for them. It is important to reduce the fighting and establish the federal union that the indigenous people of Myanmar seek,” Min Aung Htoo said.
“Those participating in the peace talks with the State Counselor must be knowledgeable about Mon State’s issues and aware of the Mon people’s desires. We don’t want to see people who just wear traditional Mon dress but are unable to reflect on the current political and social issues,” said Min Zar Ni Oo, the secretary of the Mon Youth Network, which represents Mon people throughout the country.
Though Mon State is now relatively peaceful with less armed conflict than other parts of Myanmar, “it does not mean that we have peace,” Min Zar Ni Oo added. “As long as there are human rights violations, corruption, land confiscation and implementation of big projects without consulting the public, we cannot say we have peace,” he said.