NAYPYIDAW — The National League for Democracy (NLD) government will neither pressure nor coerce ethnic armed groups through populist politics in peace building, but focus on frank and inclusive dialogue, said State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Burma’s de facto leader elaborated her peace policy as she addressed the second session of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference, which convened on Wednesday at the Myanmar International Convention Center (MICC-2) in administrative capital Naypyidaw.
“We should not be afraid of negotiating with anybody,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, encouraging ethnic armed groups that are still engaged in conflict with the military to enter negotiations.
“As we negotiate to reach common agreement on issues where our views differ, we must recognize that courtesy is not weakness, and negotiation is not concession,” she said.
She urged stakeholders to seek to identify issues that could help strengthen unity rather than focusing on problems that could exacerbate differences.
“We are better able to identify common ground if we meet face to face and negotiate, rather than if we listen from afar to the words and speeches of others and seek to draw conclusions from them,” she said.
She said ceasefires can fall apart and they only address surface problems.
“Only political dialogue can address underlying grievances,” she added.
She also thanked those who brought about the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), saying the “NCA opens the door to political dialogue.”
She admitted that peace is a “long journey” and called on stakeholders to overcome the challenges that come up through “unity, empathy, solidarity and the Panglong Spirit,” invoking the Panglong Agreement signed by her late father Gen Aung San and ethnic Shan, Kachin and Chin leaders in 1947.
“Our goal is the emergence of a democratic federal Union,” she said, because “almost everyone accepts that the resolution to Burma’s long-running armed conflicts is a federal system that is acceptable to all.”
“The energy, faith and effort that we put into achieving peace can be a beacon of light for our country, our Union and all of our people,” she said.
“Whether this light will fade or brighten in the months and years ahead will determine Myanmar’s place in this world.”
Speakers of Burma’s two houses, Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, chairman Mutu Say Poe of the Karen National Union and chairman U Than Htay of the Union Solidarity and Development Party also delivered opening addresses.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.