Chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU) Saw Mutu Say Poe urged for a more inclusive peace process in his speech on the opening of the Union Peace Conference in Naypyidaw on Thursday.
The leader of Burma’s oldest ethnic armed organization and signatory of the government’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) denounced the government’s position on only inviting NCA signatories as delegates to the conference and said time restrictions were impeding national reconciliation.
“We cannot solve the problem covering the whole nation with only those who signed the NCA,” he told the ethnic armed group delegates, Burma Army officials, government ministers, members of Parliament, foreign diplomats, and NGO and UN representatives gathered for the second session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace conference.
“I want to stress that there are still other national ethnic armed groups who are stakeholders in building up a future federal nation,” he said.
NCA non-signatory groups—including members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—were not invited to attend as full delegates, but “special guests” with limited participation.
Saw Mutu Say Poe criticized “hastily made political negotiations” and said procedures and meetings with time limits and boundaries could not bring about national reconciliation.
The Arakan Liberation Party and the Restoration Council of Shan State were unable to complete regional consultations, known as national level political dialogues and an essential step in the NCA procedure, ahead of this session of the peace conference.
Peace negotiations should include all stakeholders—the government, parliament, military, NCA signatories and non-signatories, political parties, and civil society representatives—and be held “depending upon race, place and matters.”
“We need to create this condition; the government and the Tatmadaw were leading the political negotiations, but to build a federal union all stakeholders must participate in the peace process with equal rights,” he told the conference.
He said negotiations needed to take place free from influences and with sufficient preparation, and that everyone must analyze this session of the Union Peace Conference and judge its effectiveness.