Pa-O Group Picks New Chairman, Promises Continuity

By Nyein Nyein 17 January 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO) elected a new chairman during its second conference last week in a remote area in Shan State’s Mawkmai Township.

Colonel Khun Thu Rein was elected to replace Khun Myint Tu, who was elected vice chairman.

The PNLO and its armed wing, the Pa-O National Liberation Army, agreed to both a bilateral ceasefire and the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the previous government.

The PNLO conference convened for four days, from Jan. 11 to 14, at the organization’s headquarters in Mawkmai and was joined by more than 220 participants. They included monks and civil society representatives from Shan, Karen and Mon states and Bago Region. The ethnic minority Pa-O live scattered across the country’s east and southeast regions.

Despite the latest leadership change, a PNLO secretary said, the organization would not be changing its delegates to NCA implementation bodies including the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee and the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee. It will also keep in place its current delegate to the Peace Process Steering Team, made up of the eight ethnic armed groups that have signed the NCA.

“The PNLO will continue following the NCA path,” said Khun Tun Tin, the organization’s first joint general secretary.

At a meeting in Thailand last week, the steering team agreed that the third session of the 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference should be postponed until the signatories were able to carry out the mandated national-level political dialogues. Myanmar’s military, or Tatmadaw, recently obstructed public consultations taking place prior to national-level dialogues in Shan, claiming the consultations were not allowed under the terms of the NCA.

The PNLO’s representative on the steering team did not join its meeting in Thailand because he was attending the PNLO conference.

The Tatmadaw is reluctant to allow the NCA signatories to hold public consultations in other states and regions as well. It has not allowed consultations in Rakhine State citing security concerns. The Karen National Union had to postpone its consultations, too, while the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front cancelled its own public consultation in Irrawaddy Region on Saturday and temporarily in Bago on Friday under military pressure.

Khun Tin Tun said the PNLO’s conference also included discussion of the organization’s activities and policies, amendments to its Constitution, and the national-level dialogues.

Regard to the current difficulties with the dialogues, the secretary said: “We hope the [steering team] can sort out those problems and move the peace process forward.”