Second ‘Panglong’ Conference to be Held in August

By Htet Naing Zaw & Saw Yan Naing 28 June 2016

NAYPYIDAW & RANGOON — Ethnic armed group leaders and government peace negotiators have decided to hold the union peace conference—now branded the “21st Panglong Conference”—in last week of August, according to sources in Naypyidaw.

President’s Office spokesman Zaw Htay told media in Naypyidaw that the decision was reached on Tuesday in a meeting between State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and the Peace Process Steering Team, a delegation drawn from eight ethnic armed groups that signed Burma’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in October last year.

“They decided to hold the 21st Century Panglong Conference no later than the last week of August,” said Zaw Htay.

Ethnic armed group leaders told Suu Kyi of their policy to include all ethnic armed organizations in the union peace conference—the majority of whom refused to sign or were excluded from the NCA—to which Suu Kyi agreed, according to Hla Maung Shwe, a member of the government’s Panglong Preparatory Sub-Committee 2.

“For Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the key is to include all concerned parties and establish a federal nation. She was satisfied [with the meeting] because it was a frank discussion,” said Hla Maung Shwe.

The meeting on Tuesday, at Naypyidaw’s Horizon Lake View Resort, also included members of the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center and the Joint Monitoring Committee-Technical Secretariat Center.

Suu Kyi said to those assembled, “For the next generation, peace is the best legacy to pass on. Our country will develop only if it has peace. Development is impossible in a country without peace. And it will be peaceful only when there is unity.”

“There will be difficulties. But […] we can achieve it if we are committed in our efforts and in our cooperation,” said Suu Kyi.

She also urged all parties to “help build a genuine federal democratic union that grants safety and freedom. This can’t be achieved by one side alone.”

However, she cautioned that building a genuine union would take time, noting that it had been almost seventy years since Burma gained its independence from the British.

Suu Kyi also invited members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed organizations who did not sign the NCA, to participate in the Panglong conference.

Their participation, which remains in some doubt, would be crucial to the legitimacy of the peace process now led by Suu Kyi, since the absence of several of Burma’s most powerful ethnic armed groups was widely perceived to have undermined the credibility of the NCA signed under the previous government.

A delegation from the UNFC is due to visit Naypyidaw this week, and will meet with Suu Kyi in the first week of July, government sources say.

A preparatory meeting for the 21st century Panglong Conference will be held on July 3 in Naypyidaw.

The eight ethnic armed groups that signed the NCA will hold a meeting with the Panglong Conference preparatory sub-committees on July 4. Preparatory sub-committees 1 and 2 will then hold a meeting with Suu Kyi.