Parliamentary Proposal to Invite All Ethnic Armed Groups to Peace Conference Rejected

By Lawi Weng 19 December 2016

A national lawmaker proposed a bill last week that would have invited all ethnic groups to attend the Union Peace Conference in February, but the Parliament office director rejected the proposal and will not allow the issue to be debated or voted upon.

Lawmaker Mai Win Htoo of the Ta’ang National Party sent his draft proposal to the Union Parliament office on Thursday, he told The Irrawaddy. The proposal asked the government to allow all ethnic armed groups to participate at the second 21st Century Panglong peace conference.

“There are too many restrictions involved in the Panglong conference right now,” said lawmaker Mai Win Htoo. “The government is blocking some ethnic armed groups from the peace talks. My proposal asked the government to relax those restrictions.  Let’s bring all the armed groups to the table and talk about peace.”

Mai Win Htoo submitted his draft proposal to the Union Parliament office on Dec. 15, but then the office’s director, Kyaw Soe, told the lawmaker that he was not allowed to propose such a debate, the lawmaker said.

“He gave me two reasons,” Mai Win Htoo said. “One reason was that the government is already working on this problem, and therefore, it does not need to be discussed in Parliament. The second reason was that peace was not an urgent issue.”

Mai Win Htoo said that he wants the government to start a political dialogue that could quell the conflict in northern Shan State.

“The fighting has escalated too much in our region of northern Shan,” he said. “We need to resolve this, so we must have political dialogue.”

Burma’s government will host the second peace conference in February. One of the government’s stipulations is that all ethnic armed groups must sign the NCA before they may attend the peace conference.

Eight ethnic armed groups signed the NCA in 2015. Several armed groups which are now fighting the Burma Army in northern Shan State—including the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and the Arakan Army (AA)—have so far refused to sign the NCA.

The Burma Army also has opposed peace talks with non-signatories of the NCA.

Mai Win Htoo said it felt very strange to him that his proposal, which supports the peace process, could not be discussed and debated in Parliament. Only a week ago, Parliament took time to debate whether or not to call some ethnic armed groups “terrorist organizations.”

“When the issue was to recognize ethnic armed groups as terrorists, then the Parliament said, ‘let’s discuss it.’ But when I put forward a proposal to talk about peace, the Parliament won’t allow it to be discussed,” he said. “So I feel like we will not achieve peace for our country.”