Civil so­ci­ety read­ies for up­com­ing Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­ NAY AUNG nayaung@mm­ – With trans­la­tion by Khant Lin Oo

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.

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