KNU, RCSS Meet to Ready for ‘Second Panglong’ Summit

By Kyaw Kha 2 May 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Karen National Union (KNU) and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) held private talks here over the weekend about a second “Panglong-style” peace conference, an idea proposed by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi last week.

“As the state counselor focuses on federalism, we are discussing what this Panglong conference should include, as well as the country’s current political landscape,” KNU Maj-Gen Saw Issac Po told reporters in the northern Thai city.

Suu Kyi called for a “Panglong-style” summit to be held within two months, when she addressed the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) in Naypyidaw on Wednesday, a meeting that included representatives from signatories to the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). That accord was signed on Oct. 15 under Burma’s previous quasi-civilian government.

The two groups meeting in Chiang Mai talked about the type of federalism that the eight NCA signatories would demand during peace talks, the new government’s negotiation team, and Suu Kyi’s proposed Panglong conference, said RCSS spokesman Lt-Col Sai Hseng Murng.

The first Panglong Conference was held on the eve of Burma’s independence in 1947 by Suu Kyi’s father, Gen. Aung San, and leaders from three of the country’s ethnic minority groups. The meeting to determine how the new union of Burma would be constituted is widely praised for the spirit of cooperation that it fostered between the dominant Burman majority and ethnic minorities at the time.

“The term ‘21st century Panglong Conference’ has been used by Suu Kyi. So far, we don’t know what [the conference] will be like. We are discussing the sort of federalism that the ethnic groups envision in preparation for the talks,” the lieutenant-colonel told the press.

The KNU and the RCSS are the two most powerful groups among the eight NCA signatories, as well the leaders of the Ethnic Armed Organizations Peace Process Steering Team (EAO-PPST), which was formed by the signatories to provide leadership during future peace talks.

KNU chairman Gen. Mutu Say Poe is the EAO-PPST leader, RCSS chairman Lt-Gen Yawd Serk serves as deputy leader, and other leaders of the NCA signatory groups are team members.