Burma Army, UNFC Delegation Disagree on Peace Conference Dialogue Facilitation

By Lawi Weng 22 August 2016

RANGOON — Burma Army representatives of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) objected to a proposal put forward on Monday by an ethnic armed group delegation regarding the facilitation of dialogue at the upcoming Union Peace Conference.

The upcoming conference—also being lauded as the 21st Century Panglong event—will begin on August 31 in Naypyidaw. At a meeting in Rangoon on Monday, the Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN)—a group of representatives from the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a coalition of ethnic armed groups who opted out of signing 2015’s nationwide ceasefire with the government—proposed a facilitation strategy for the conference involving three chairpersons from three sides.

“From our ethnic armed groups, we will select three people who will act as chairpersons at the conference. This is the issue we had a disagreement about today with the Tatmadaw. They wanted [their own] three persons who would act as chairpersons at the conference,” said a representative from DPN who wished not to be named.

The idea put forward by the DPN was to select three individuals each from the ethnic armed groups, the government, and the country’s political parties. These people will act as chairpersons and sit at the front of the stage at the conference.

The Burma Army said that they would also like to have three representatives of their own, as well as three from the leading National League for Democracy, and the Parliament. The ethnic delegation disagreed, pointing out an imbalance created by having nine people on the side of the government and only three representing ethnic interests.

“The government agreed to have this tripartite political dialogue we proposed, and there was no problem,” the source added.

Sai Nyunt Lwin, the general secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) political party and an acting committee member for the Union Peace Conference, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that there was a disagreement regarding the format for the dialogue, but said that there will be ongoing negotiation on the issue.

“There could be three parties or five parties in the future,” he said, referring to the proposals put forward by both the DPN and the Burma Army.

When asked about the specifics of the disagreement, Sai Nyunt Lwin declined to comment, saying, “It was not good to mention who,” before adding, “You know who disagreed with this.”
Regarding the three ethnic armed groups whose attendance at the Union Peace Conference is not yet confirmed—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Arakan Army—Hla Maung Shwe, a member of the NRPC, said that there will be another meeting soon to negotiate between the government and the groups.

Members from NRPC have met the three ethnic armed groups twice already in eastern Shan State’s Mongla region. The Burmese Army has asked them to state an intention to disarm before they can attend the peace conference, but the groups have objected to this demand.