Mai Ja Yang calls for unity

Deputy leader of the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army Gen­eral N’Ban La (cen­tre) yes­ter­day stressed the need for unity and a com­mon po­si­tion on fed­er­al­ism as 17 eth­nic armed groups gath­ered at the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit in Kachin State.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - PHOTO: ZARNI PHYO

CALLS for unity and the ab­sence of some key play­ers marked the open­ing day of an eth­nic sum­mit in Kachin State’s Mai Ja Yang.

The deputy leader of the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army, Gen­eral N’Ban La, told at­ten­dees yes­ter­day that build­ing a fed­eral Union and unity among Myan­mar’s many eth­nic armed groups are im­por­tant for the peace process.

Eth­nic armed groups in­clud­ing both sig­na­to­ries and non-sig­na­to­ries to the so-called na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment are meet­ing this week along with civil so­ci­ety groups and po­lit­i­cal par­ties to dis­cuss an up­com­ing peace meet­ing be­ing dubbed the 21stcen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, which is slated for late Au­gust.

De­spite the di­verse na­ture of the gath­ered stake­hold­ers and their var­ied in­ter­ests, Gen N’Ban La said it was im­por­tant to build “unity in di­ver­sity”.

“In this cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, build­ing unity among us – the eth­nic peo­ple – is very im­por­tant. That’s why, de­spite our di­verse na­ture, we should ex­plore a way for­ward that will unify us. The essence of this ple­nary meet­ing of eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions is an ef­fort to build stronger unity among eth­nic peo­ple,” said Gen N’Ban La.

But even as scores of rep­re­sen­ta­tives for eth­nic armed groups gath­ered for the four-day meet­ing in Mai Ja Yang, a sleepy town on the border with China that is con­trolled by the KIA, rifts were ev­i­dent.

The meet­ing does not have the Tat­madaw’s bless­ing, and four eth­nic armed groups de­clined in­vi­ta­tions, in­clud­ing the United Wa State Army – the coun­try’s most pow­er­ful non-state armed force – and two groups that have en­gaged in ac­tive hos­til­i­ties with the mil­i­tary in the last year.

Speak­ing on be­half of mil­i­tary Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing, a se­nior Tat­madaw of­fi­cial told a press con­fer­ence on July 20 that the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit should be not held, while adding that the mil­i­tary would not pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing. At a meet­ing with NCA sig­na­to­ries about three weeks ear­lier, Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing was quoted as ex­press­ing con­cern that the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit would serve as a gath­er­ing to build power among eth­nic armed groups.

Khu Oo Reh, chair of the con­ven­ing com­mit­tee for the sum­mit, played down that spec­u­la­tion.

“The ob­jec­tive of this ple­nary meet­ing is prepara­tory talks for the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence. Another rea­son why we are hold­ing this sum­mit is to find com­mon ground among the eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions for build­ing a fed­eral demo­cratic Union in the fu­ture,” he said yes­ter­day.

Ab­sen­tees in­cluded the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army, which waged a fierce cam­paign against the Tat­madaw in the Kokang Spe­cial Re­gion last year, and the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army. In ad­di­tion to spo­radic fight­ing with the Tat­madaw over the past year, the TNLA has clashed with the Shan State Army-South. It and its po­lit­i­cal wing, the Restora­tion Coun­cil of Shan State, are in Mai Ja Yang this week, one rea­son for the TNLA’s ab­sence.

“As we have been fight­ing, we can­not at­tend if they are in­vited to the meet­ing,” TNLA for­eign re­la­tions of­fi­cer Tar Pan La told The Myan­mar Times.

Fur­ther­more, con­di­tions were not favourable for his group, he said.

“The govern­ment has al­ready an­nounced that we must sur­ren­der our arms if we want to join the peace process and the groups at­tend­ing the sum­mit have good re­la­tions with the govern­ment. So, we are con­cerned that all-inclusivity would be aban­doned,” he said.

Another less prom­i­nent eth­nic armed group, the Na­tion­al­ist So­cial­ist Coun­cil of Na­ga­land-Kha­p­lang, was also a no-show at this week’s sum­mit.

Meet­ing min­utes One ex­pected out­come of the Mai Ja Yang meet­ing is the draft­ing of a con­sen­sus pa­per on par­tic­i­pat­ing eth­nic armed groups’ vi­sion for the “prin­ci­ples of Pan­g­long”, lay­ing out ba­sic doc­trine for a con­sti­tu­tion that guar­an­tees the es­tab­lish­ment of a fed­eral demo­cratic Union; cov­ers poli­cies re­gard­ing se­cu­rity and de­fence is­sues; and re­views the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue frame­work.

“It is very im­por­tant for us, the eth­nic peo­ple, to have com­mon prin­ci­ples for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a fed­eral Union,” Gen N’Ban La said. “I hope we will find com­mon ground on this is­sue through di­a­logue in the ple­nary meet­ing. I would also wel­come sug­ges­tions on how we could prac­ti­cally turn those com­mon prin­ci­ples into ac­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

He said fail­ure to hon­our the terms laid out in the 1947 Pan­g­long Agree­ment – the in­spi­ra­tion for Au­gust’s con­fer­ence of the same name – had led the coun­try into decades of in­ter­nal con­flict as eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups took up arms to claim the rights they had been promised.

“The main point of the treaty was build­ing a new state by co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the fron­tier ar­eas and [then-] Burma proper. There were pre­con­di­tions set for state-build­ing. It was the build­ing of a na­tion that grants equal­ity among na­tion­al­i­ties and au­ton­omy or self-de­ter­mi­na­tion,” he added.

The orig­i­nal Pan­g­long Agree­ment was signed by ma­jor­ity Ba­mar leader Bo­gyoke Aung San and eth­nic Kachin, Shan and Chin lead­ers on the eve of in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish colonial rule. The ac­cord guar­an­teed “full au­ton­omy” for then-Burma’s “fron­tier ar­eas”. With the as­sas­si­na­tion of Bo­gyoke Aung San later that year and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil cul­mi­nat­ing in a 1962 coup, how­ever, the prin­ci­ples were ig­nored by suc­ces­sive mil­i­tary gov­ern­ments.

Vi­jay Nam­biar, spe­cial ad­viser on Myan­mar to the UN sec­re­tary gen­eral, is also in Mai Ja Yang to ob­serve this week’s talks, and yes­ter­day of­fered the world body’s con­tin­ued sup­port for the peace process.

“We, as a group, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as well as the eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions and the eth­nic groups in gen­eral, as well as the govern­ment, look for­ward to build­ing trust and con­fi­dence in the fu­ture,” he said.

“The United Na­tions will stand by the eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions and the eth­nic groups here as­sem­bled to­day as well as the govern­ment of Myan­mar in build­ing such a strong, uni­fied fu­ture for the coun­try.”

As Myan­mar’s big­gest neigh­bour, China will con­tinue to mon­i­tor Myan­mar’s in­ter­nal peace process and sup­port the ne­go­ti­a­tions, said Sun Guox­i­ang, spe­cial en­voy on Asian af­fairs for the Chi­nese for­eign min­istry, who is at­tend­ing the sum­mit as an ob­server as well.

“De­spite the change in govern­ment, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween our coun­tries and our for­eign pol­icy to­ward Myan­mar will not change,” he said.

He said China’s de­vel­op­ment agenda for Myan­mar in­cluded the peace process, with his govern­ment hav­ing com­mit­ted US$3 mil­lion in sup­port for the Joint Cease­fire Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee, which was set up last year.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Al­liance and the Na­tion­al­i­ties Brother­hood Fed­er­a­tion, two al­liances of eth­nic po­lit­i­cal par­ties, are also on hand this week.

The govern­ment has in­vited NCA sig­na­to­ries and non-sig­na­to­ries to re­view the frame­work for po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue in early Au­gust, and in­tends to con­vene the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence by the end of the month.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

The UN sec­re­tary gen­eral’s spe­cial ad­viser on Myan­mar, Vi­jay Nam­biar (cen­tre), speaks at the Mai Ja Yang eth­nic group sum­mit yes­ter­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.