Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Rejects National-level Political Dialogue in Arakan State

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 27 April 2017

RANGOON — State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has again rejected the Arakan Liberation Party’s (ALP) request to hold an ethnic-based national-level political dialogue in Arakan State, saying it is a sensitive region.

Daw Saw Mra Razar Lin, member of the ALP central executive committee, told The Irrawaddy that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is disregarding their request.

“When we say we are ready [for political dialogue], it falls on deaf ears. What Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said is not acceptable to Arakanese people,” said Daw Saw Mra Razar Lin.

The national-level political dialogue is a mandatory step of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), where regional stakeholders discuss suggestions at large-scale public consultations, the results of which are shared by representatives at the Union Peace Conference or 21st Century Panglong.

In February, the ALP—which is one of eight NCA signatories—proposed holding ethnic-based national-level political dialogue in Arakan State, but Burma’s de facto leader turned down the request, saying the ALP was not yet ready.

The ALP has made necessary preparations and has submitted letters three times to request approval to hold the dialogue. But the government has not replied, and at the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) on Monday in Naypyidaw, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi again declined the request, citing sensitive issues involving the Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State.

“We think we can hold political dialogue in any of the 17 townships that are not sensitive areas. We wonder what she is talking about. There are many places where we could hold political dialogue,” said Daw Saw Mra Razar Lin.

Leaders of other NCA signatory groups backed the ALP’s request at the JICM meeting, but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi focused the meeting on the second 21st Century Panglong Conference, which is slated for May 24.

“We ethnic groups are honest and unwilling to offend people. We have suffered throughout the course of history. If we continue to be unwilling to offend, and if we do as the government says, I doubt we will ever see a federal Union,” said Daw Saw Mra Razar Lin.

Vice Chairman U Khaing Pyi Soe of the Arakan National Party (ANP) said his party would summon a central executive committee meeting during the first week of May to determine whether or not to attend the second Panglong.

As national-level political dialogue has not been held in Arakan State, local ethnic parties have nothing to discuss at the Panglong Conference, he said.

The national-level political dialogue in Arakan State is to be supervised by the Arakan State government, ALP and ANP, and although the two parties have selected members to organize the dialogues and informed the state government, it has not replied, said U Khaing Pyay Soe.

“The Arakan State government has not replied. The ANP and ALP are ready. I think it is the government that is not yet ready,” he said.

Of eight ethnic armed groups that have signed the NCA with the previous government, six have already held national-level political dialogues in their respective regions.

Besides the ALP, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-South) has not held ethnic-based national-level political dialogue, as the government has not allowed them to hold it in their proposed towns of Taunggyi or Panglong.

However, the Shan State government organized helter-skelter region-based political dialogue in Shan State on April 23 in Taunggyi. Attendees were only informed on April 21 and have criticized the government for giving limited time for preparation.