Myanmar Peace Process Back on Track, Says Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

By Nyein Nyein 13 August 2020

Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the Myanmar peace process is back on track after a number of postponements and the fourth session of the Panglong peace conference is set to proceed, referring to next week’s event.

“We are now able to hold [another session of] the 21st [Century] Panglong peace conference, having overcome a situation where the peace negotiations were not able to be held, as well as the postponement of the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement] path. Furthermore, we have been able, through step-by-step implementation, to secure political agreements on a democratic federal union, national reconciliation and peace,” she said in her opening remarks to the 9th Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) on ceasefire implementation on Thursday.

The JICM was attended by government representatives led by the State Counselor and representatives of ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that are signatories to the NCA, as well as military representatives led by the deputy army chief. The last JICM was held in January.

The JICM leaders agreed on seven points to be added into the Union Accord at next week’s Panglong peace conference, according to spokespersons for the government and the EAOs.

Among them, Nai Ong MaNge, the spokesman for the EAOs’ negotiating team, said both sides agreed to continue their discussion with regards to chapters 3 and 4 of the NCA text, which are related to strengthening the ceasefire; the framework for implementing the NCA; step-by-step process and implementation beyond 2020; and a five-point road map toward a democratic federal union.

The 9th Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting on ceasefire implementation is held in Naypyitaw on Thursday. / Htet Naing Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Other points agreed were that there will be 230 delegates in attendance at next week’s Panglong peace conference; and a recommitment on the part of the government, the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) and the EAOs to maintain their efforts to bring other non-signatories of the NCA into the process.

The government invited seven ethnic armed groups that are non-signatories to the NCA to the latest UPC. They are the Karenni National Progressive Party, which has already said it will not join the event, as its officials are busy next week, and six members of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), excluding the Arakan Army.

The FPNCC is led by the United Wa State Army (UWSA). The other members are the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Mong La’s National Democratic Alliance Army, Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army-North.

The government earlier said it would not invite the AA, which it declared a terrorist group in March.

Late Thursday afternoon, the FPNCC released a statement announcing that the six members who were invited “will not be able to join the fourth session of the UPC, mainly due to COVID-19.”

It said the decision was made at their meeting on Thursday at Pang Hseng, the headquarters of the UWSA, and added that they deeply regretted that the AA was not invited.

Despite the fact that not all ethnic armed organizations will attend, and many other delegates will not be present for the peace conference, partly due to COVID-19, the peace negotiations under the NCA are moving forward.

“Looking at the draft of Part 3 of the Union Accord, it’s clear how much effort the members of the negotiation committee put into debating and negotiating to come up with this text,” the State Counselor said.

General Yawd Serk, the chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), who is leading the negotiations and the 10 EAOs’ Peace Process Steering Team, urged everyone involved to work together to build a federal union, to achieve a smoother peace process and to make the upcoming peace conference a success.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reiterated that while Myanmar is going through a democratic transition and building a federal union, both of which are long-term processes, the country is also trying to achieve peace and national reconciliation.

She said, “These long-term processes are linked to constitutional change,” adding that the peace negotiators have established a process that is “inclusive of” all these important issues.

During the second and third sessions of the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference in 2017 and 2018, peace negotiators agreed 51 basic principles for a future democratic federal union to be added to the Union Accord, whose compilation is an ongoing process.

Deputy army chief Vice Senior General Soe Win (left) and General Yawd Serk, chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (center) attend the JICM. / Htet Naing Zaw / The Irrawaddy

After that, formal peace negotiations stalled for more than a year as the Karen National Union and RCSS announced they would suspend their participation in the process. After numerous rounds of informal negotiations, the peace process got back on track in January this year.

Both the State Counselor and Gen. Yawd Serk expressed thanks for the efforts of the leaders and negotiators of the government, Tatmadaw and EAOs, noting that the negotiators kept on working even through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Since late March, peace negotiations have continued via video-conferencing. Since late July, both informal and formal talks have been continued in person with COVID-19 preventative measures being observed.

The negotiation teams will continue talks on the drafting of state/regional constitutions, security reintegration and other key federal principles on governance, finance, and land and resources, according to U Zaw Htay, the government’s spokesman.

U Zaw Htay added that the State Counselor, who is also the head of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), will honor those working on peace and ceasefire negotiations in various ways, such as by bestowing peace-making and peace-keeping prizes at next week’s peace conference.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also honored the leaders of the 10 EAOs, including the RCSS chairman and KNU chairman Saw Mutu Say Poe; NRPC members; and military generals including the deputy army chief, with peace-steering prizes during Thursday’s JICM.

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