Shan State Regional Dialogue to Proceed, But Ethnic Dialogue Stalled

By Nyein Nyein 21 April 2017

The government will convene the regional national-level dialogue in the Shan State capital of Taunggyi from Sunday until Tuesday, April 23-25, but the ethnic-based political dialogue led by the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) remains unable to proceed.

The public consultations for national-level political dialogues—based on region, ethnicity and theme—have been conducted by the government and the signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) since December 2016.

The dialogues mark a mandatory step in the process laid out by the NCA, in which the regional stakeholders raise their concerns and recommendations at large-scale public consultations, which are shared by representatives at the Union Peace Conference. These dialogues have been held in areas of several of the eight NCA signatories, but not by the RCSS in Shan State or the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) in Arakan State.

The RCSS has organized a series of pre-consultations, gathering public opinions in townships, but they do not yet have the common positions that need to be agreed upon for the main ethnic Shan political dialogue to go ahead.

“We have not acquired our common perspectives to share at the upcoming peace conference,” said Lt-Col Sai Ngin, the spokesperson of the RCSS, of the second session of the 21st Century Panglong event slated to be held in May.

The start of the regional political dialogue in Taunggyi “is out of step,” he said, noting that the RCSS was told by the Burma Army not to conduct a large-scale public consultation in the state capital, but to do so in remote towns in RCSS-controlled areas.

The Tatmadaw’s reluctance to agree to allow the RCSS—an NCA signatory—to gather the public in the state capital has delayed the process.

“It is also inconvenient for us to arrange for more than 700 representatives. As you know, we have multiple ethnicities in Shan State,” said Sai Ngin, adding that it is inconvenient “to travel to a remote town.”

“We want to do it in Taunggyi,” he said.

The issue will be put forward for discussion at the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting on the NCA in Naypyidaw on Monday, April 24, which the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be attending, he added.

The RCSS representatives will likely join the Taunggyi dialogue on Sunday, as they have been in talks with the Shan political parties and civil society representatives, said Lt-Col Sai Ngin.

Shan politicians have said that they have no specific expectations of the government-led national dialogue, as they feel it is being “rushed.” Four hundred people have been invited to the event, and the preparation time for Sunday’s dialogue is four days—in contrast to extensive pre-consultations carried out by Shan civil society groups and the RCSS.

“The government should not be too hasty in conducting this national dialogue, as these are political affairs and not child’s play,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin, the secretary of the political party the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.

The eight NCA signatories are the Karen National Union (KNU), RCSS, Chin National Front (CNF), Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council (KNLA-PC), All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) and Arakan Liberation Party (ALP).

Among them, only the ALP has not been allowed by the government to hold public consultations, citing the instability due to ongoing conflict in Arakan State.

The KNU had gathered their common policy recommendations in January and the Pa-O and Chin did the same in February of this year.