Third Session of 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference to Convene in January

By Nyein Nyein 27 November 2017

NAYPYITAW–The third session of the 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference will convene in the last week of January, it was agreed at the 6th Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) in Naypyitaw on Monday.

The government and eight Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) set the date, which is later than State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s preferred date of next month.

“It’s not about delaying the timeframe of the 21st Century Panglong. We agreed to a time that worked for all stakeholders,” said U Zaw Htay, a spokesperson for the State Counselor’s Office. The government has announced its intention to hold twice-yearly peace conferences.

Matters discussed at Monday’s meeting included details of the national-level political dialogue (ND) with the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and efforts to establish one with Rakhine’s Arakan Liberation Party (ALP). The meeting also approved the standard operating procedures and terms of reference drafted by the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) and a discussion of the implementation of the Union accord.

Dr. Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong, one of eight leaders of the EAOs’ Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), told reporters in Naypyitaw on Monday that the RCSS would convene its ND in Linkhay township in Shan State in January.

Efforts to establish an ND with the RCSS had faltered over the venue. The RCSS proposed Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, but Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, rejected this, insisting on Mong Pang or another smaller town in RCSS controlled areas. The Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) and the government spokesmen said the dilemma was resolved by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s recommendation of Linkhay.

The details of where and when to convene an ND in Rakhine State with the ALP, they said, had yet to be resolved. However, PPST member U Than Khe told The Irrawaddy that “Today, a result was reached regarding the nature of the negotiations”, adding that the team would continue pushing for an ND to be held in Rakhine State.

“The ALP’s national-level dialogue cannot be held at this time,” added Zaw Htay. He told reporters in Naypyitaw that this was due to the current crisis in Rakhine, which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has described as Myanmar’s most crucial challenge.

He also said they would establish a channel to deliver the ALP’s recommendation papers to the Union Peace Conference (UPC) through a working committee. The UPDJC has working committees for five sectors: political, social, economic, security and land and environment.

Participation of all of the country’s EAOs in the peace-building process has yet to be secured. Two key blocs have yet to sign the NCA: the seven-member northern alliance known as the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) led by the United Wa State Army based in the northeast of the country; and the five-member United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) based in the southeast. The FPNCC is pushing for an alternative NCA that the government and Tatmadaw do not accept, while the UNFC is still negotiating the terms under which it would sign the NCA pact.

Vice Sen. Gen. Soe Win, the Tatmadaw’s deputy commander-in-chief, said during his opening speech to the JICM meeting on Monday that “We all have to continue trying to bring all of the non-signatories of the NCA to sign it and take part in the political dialogue process.”