Ethnic Armed Groups To Meet Before Panglong

By Saw Yan Naing 27 June 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Ethnic armed organizations plan to hold a summit in mid-July in the conflict-torn region of Mai Ja Yang in Kachin State, near the border with China, in order to discuss the upcoming 21st Century Panglong conference, according to sources close to the groups.

Khuensai Jaiyen, an advisor to the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), told The Irrawaddy that RCSS leader Lt-Gen Yawd Serk met Gen Gun Maw of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in early June and that they had agreed to hold an ethnic summit in Mai Ja Yang. They have reportedly invited all ethnic armed organizations—those that signed Burma’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) and those that did not.

The NCA was signed between eight ethnic armed groups and Thein Sein’s government in 2015.

“The RCSS and the KIO are still trying to set a date for the summit. They will invite all ethnic armed groups. In order to make it happen, the Burma Army also needs to give the green light, as well as Chinese authorities,” said Jaiyen.

The meeting is expected to take place after July 12, according to sources.

Jaiyen said the summit would be convened to discuss how a new Panglong Conference should be adjusted under the current political climate in Burma.

The first Panglong Conference was held in 1947 and resulted in an agreement among Shan, Kachin, Chin and Burman leaders in preparation for independence from Britain.

Ethnic armed groups who have not signed the NCA include members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—which the KIO chairs—and will be also invited, said Jaiyen.

Khun Okkar, a spokesperson for the eight ethnic armed groups who signed the NCA last year, told The Irrawaddy that the RCSS and the KIO are still working to fix a date for the summit.

“It is confirmed that the summit will happen,” said Khun Okkar, without elaborating.

The idea for the summit came from ethnic leaders from groups such as the KIO, the RCSS, the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and the Chin National Front (CNF)—groups that see themselves as successors of the signatories of the 1947’s Panglong Agreement, which is why they have agreed to hold the event, explained Jaiyen.

The summit will be held in Mai Ja Yang because it is logistically easier for ethnic organizations such as the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and its allies to attend the meeting, he added.