Civil society readies for upcoming Panglong Conference
CIVIL society groups are gearing up for the so-called 21st-century Panglong Conference, next month’s much-anticipated peace summit.
The National Ethnic Youth Conference, scheduled to be held in Loilin township’s Panglong town from July 27 to 31, will strive to cultivate a sense of unity among Myanmar’s younger generations.
“We aim to discuss the federal union and peace among all ethnic groups,” said Sai Aung Myint Oo, a member of the conference’s coordination committee. “We also expect to talk about unity, friendship and understanding among ethnic youths.”
Organisers are in the process of selecting youth leaders, defined for this purpose as under 35 years of age, to represent their ethnic groups. Panglong, in Shan State, was the site of the original Panglong Conference peace talks in 1947.
“I’m selecting the Rakhine representative to attend the conference,” said Ko Zaw Zaw Htun, a Rakhine youth leader and member of the coordination committee. “We are selecting a representative who is really working for the region. The conference will give us a chance to share each ethnic group’s perspectives and problems.”
Ko Wai Hun Aung, a fellow Rakhine youth activist who serves as an executive member of the Wan Lark Foundation, noted that while Myanmar’s ethnic groups are broken down broadly into eight main groups and more than 100 subgroups, this week’s conference will include representatives of at least 26 distinct ethnic identities.
Smaller groups will have a chance to share their problems and perspectives, he said.
“I am over 35 so I will not be participating in the conference but I will attend as a witness,” said Sai Han of the Tai Youth Network. “I hope the conference will help create one voice out of all the ethnic groups.”
The Ethnic Youth Network was formed in 2012 in Shan State’s Lashio township and the coordination committee for the National Ethnic Youth Conference was formed in October 2014. At its outset, it included 38 committee members representing 16 ethnic groups. Now, with the Panglong Conference in sight, it is made up of 40 committee members from 26 ethnic groups.
Meanwhile, civil society organisations in Magwe Region held a “public cooperation workshop” yesterday ahead of the Panglong Conference, seeking input from civilian stakeholders about what they want to see addressed at the peace summit.
Participants at the workshop sought to ensure that Magwe civil society groups have a say in the agenda of the upcoming conference, which will bring together members of Myanmar’s civilian government, military, ethnic armed groups and political parties, workshop committee member U Ko Ko Naing told The Myanmar Times.
U Ko Ko Naing noted that with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi announcing her vision for the 21st-century Panglong Conference in late April, civil society groups will have had some four months to gather input before the summit convenes at the end of August.
“So we are collecting information related to the public’s voices ... and discussed which points to present at the conference,” he said.
Fifteen suggestions from civil society organisations were discussed at yesterday’s meeting, covering topics ranging from land, natural resource and environment management policies to ethnic rights protections and other policy concerns of Magwe Region residents.
U Khin Maung Kyi from the CSO Myit Kway Aye Yar, who is taking the lead on land, natural resources and environmental policies, said, “Our committee will present statements at the peace conference by reviewing information from around the country.”
Though civil society organisations will not have direct representation at the Panglong Conference, a Civil Society Organisations’ Peace Forum will be held in tandem with the peace summit.
Currently 15 civil society organisations from Magwe plan to attend the forum, and U Ko Ko Naing said efforts are being made to persuade other CSOs from the region to take part.