Palaung Ethnic Conference Postponed Amid ‘Govt Pressure’

By Htun Htun 29 May 2015

RANGOON — Organizers of the inaugural Palaung Ethnic Conference, which was scheduled to begin on Friday in Shan State, have said they made a decision to postpone the event after the government objected to the planned presence of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Representatives of the government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC), who were also slated to attend, asked the conference organizing committee to revoke the Palaung ethnic army’s invitation to the three-day meeting in Namhsan, according to committee secretary Mai Myo Aung.

“The UPWC said that the TNLA can’t attend the conference now, as it’s still clashing with the military, and asked us to wait,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Conference organizers had invited around 800 Palaung delegates from across 21 Shan State townships to discuss recent political developments, the ongoing negotiations over a nationwide ceasefire agreement, and the language, literature and culture of the Palaung people.

The TNLA does not currently have a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government and has been involved in isolated skirmishes with the Burma Armed Forces since the beginning of the year. The armed group has also reported its soldiers had been fighting in Kokang territory, alongside ethnic Kokang rebels from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army, since hostilities between the MNDAA and the military resumed in February.

No discussions for a bilateral ceasefire between the TNLA and the government have eventuated. Though the TNLA is a government-recognized member of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), an alliance holding peace talks with government peace negotiators, the group was reportedly unhappy with the draft nationwide ceasefire agreement text discussed by the NCCT in Panghsang earlier in May, and threatened to resign from the organization.