All Members of Northern Alliance Invited to Attend Panglong Peace Conference

By Lawi Weng 4 July 2018

MON STATE — The government has invited all members of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) to attend the third session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference in Naypyitaw next week, according to an official from one of the members of the alliance of northern ethnic armed organizations.

“We received the invitation yesterday,” Major Tar Aike Kyaw, a spokesperson for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. He said the TNLA is still discussing who will represent it at the peace conference.

“[The TNLA] will attend the conference, but we are still negotiating who will lead the delegation,” he said.

The FPNCC is a political alliance of armed groups based in northern Shan and Kachin states. It has seven members: the United Wa State Army (UWSA); Kachin Independence Army (KIA); National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA); Shan State Progress Party (SSPP); TNLA; Arakan Army (AA); and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

The Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) and the government initially said they would not invite the TNLA, AA or MNDAA, with the UWSA, KIA, NDAA, and SSPP being the only groups from the alliance allowed to attend the conference.

However, all FNPCC members received invitation letters from the government. To prepare for the conference, the alliance will hold a meeting in Panghsang, the capital of the Wa Self-Administered Zone, in northern Shan on July 5.

The third session of the Panglong Peace Conference is scheduled to start on July 11.  China, which has served as a peace negotiator between the FPNCC and the Myanmar government in the past, will help arrange travel to the conference for all FPNCC members. They will first travel to China, and fly from there to Naypyitaw.

According to the peace conference’s rules, participation in discussions is limited to existing ethnic armed groups who have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, while those who have yet to sign the NCA are excluded from negotiations.

The individual FPNCC members are not yet clear on the degree to which they can participate in discussions at the peace conference. However, Maj Tar Aike Kyaw said, “This time they invited us not only to attend the opening ceremony and dinner, as in the past, but also to attend meetings. They did not mention whether we would participate in the meetings as representatives, however,” he said.

The FPNCC’s policy in the past has been not to participate in peace conferences unless all of their members are invited. All the member groups will attend the peace conference next week, but it was too early to say whether the invitations are a positive development.

“First, we will see what the conditions are like in terms of what we can say at the conference,” Maj Tar Aike Kyaw said.

The Myanmar Army and government wants all of the members of the FPNCC to sign the NCA, but the alliance wants the agreement to be amended before signing.

The army has rejected this demand, and fighting between the Tatmadaw and ethnic rebels from the north of the country continues in Kachin and northern Shan.