NAYPYITAW — A peace strategy is required in order to achieve all parties’ common goals for Myanmar, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in her closing address to the third session of the 21st-Century Panglong Union Peace Conference on Monday.
“We need a peace strategy to implement our common goals for the future. Based on this strategy, we need to adjust the political dialogue framework,” she said.
She said the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) had already formed working committees tasked with implementing this strategy, adding that it needed to start work urgently.
The six-day conference ended on Monday with the signing of agreements under Part Two of the Union Accord. These agreements included 14 more principles that were discussed and approved by the UPDJC on Sunday. In May last year, 37 basic principles were approved in Part One of the Union Accord.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), thanked the 700 delegates attending the conference for putting their efforts into debating and reaching agreement on the 14 basic principles. Of these, four were in the political sector, one economic, seven social, and two involved land. No agreement has yet been reached on the security sector, she said.
However, some of the delegates told The Irrawaddy they were disappointed with the results.
In the political sector, which was mainly limited to gender equality issues, they were disappointed with the wording, “to encourage the participation of at least 30 percent of women in every sector.”
“I am concerned by this; instead of ‘encouraging’ it should be a specific policy to help enhance [the participation of] women and to guarantee that women are freed from any forms of discrimination,” said Naw Hel Lay Phaw, a Karen National Union delegate.
She told The Irrawaddy that there was dissatisfaction over having just two principles in the land sector, adding that many of the demands the ethnic people made were left out during the various stages of the negotiations.
The delegates can only suggest opinions on the UPDJC’s already-agreed texts. However, the UPDJC did not make any changes based on these suggestions and on Sunday approved the principles as proposed.
The government plans to convene the UPC every six months. It repeated in its statement on Monday that it plans to hold three more conferences: one later this year and two in 2019. The State Counselor acknowledged that disagreements had resulted in almost a year passing between the two most recent conferences.
She said the “results” of the recent conference were obtained after many negotiations — and the facing of many challenges and disagreements. Thus, she said, the peace process was moving forward.
The number of principles agreed may be less than in the previous sessions, “but we have been able to move the political dialogue process forward,” she said, because the negotiations were made through everyone’s efforts and mutual trust.
“Our conference is not stopping, it is not reversing; it is moving forward with great difficulty,” added the State Counselor.
During the third session of the conference, ethnic armed organizations that have not yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement joined the conference at the government’s invitation.
The leaders of an alliance of northern- and northeastern-based ethnic organizations — the United Wa State Army; the Kachin Independence Army; the Mongla’s National Democratic Alliance Army; the Shan State Progressive Party; the Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army; the Arakan Army; and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army — observed the conference and separately met the State Counselor and the commander-in-chief of the military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, last week.
The State Counselor added that the northeast-based armed organizations’ agreeing to come to Naypyitaw and attend meetings was “one of the good results of this third session of the UPC.”
“During these meetings, we discussed openly and warmly, and we are all happy because there is great potential for them to participate in the peace process,” she said.