Peace Conference Closes With Promise of Prompt Restart

By The Irrawaddy 18 January 2016

RANGOON — A five-day Union Peace Conference concluded in Naypyidaw on Saturday, as participants representing ethnic armed groups, the government and the Burma Army agreed to a set time-frame for political dialogue.

A proposal put forth by the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) included four points, all approved, stipulating that the political dialogue conclude within three to five years, that a second Union Peace Conference convene “as soon as possible,” that the process enable 30 percent women’s participation and that those who ascended to an Oct. 15 ceasefire agreement and attended the conference be “put on record” and honored.

Vice Presdent Sai Mauk Kham said on Saturday at the closing remarks that documentation of all discussions throughout the conference will be handed over to the new government when it assumes power.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi, will soon have a majority in the national Parliament and will appoint the new administration to be sworn into office in early April.

“We won’t make any decisions based on what we’ve discussed here, we will take [these discussions] from representatives of different groups and refer them to the next conference,” Sai Mauk Kham said. “We will refer them along with the peace process to the incoming government when we transfer duties to them.”

The vice president expressed hope that the current round of dialogue will allow for “better agreements” during talks with the new administration.

The Union Peace Conference kicked off in Naypyidaw on Tuesday, marking the beginning of a long-sought political dialogue between the Burmese government and several of the country’s non-state armed groups.

The majority of the country’s rebel armies abstained from the preceding ceasefire agreement, however, and while they were invited to attend this week’s talks as observers, all of the non-signatories declined.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia aired last Wednesday, Suu Kyi downplayed the conference as an effort to legitimize the ceasefire agreement reached in October, which the government refers to as “nationwide” despite its exclusion of a number of major non-state armed groups.

The NLD chairwoman said her administration is committed to facilitating a “genuine” political dialogue.