Eth­nic armed groups re­unify

Af­ter the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit con­cluded over the week­end, eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions said they will mull at­tend­ing the up­com­ing Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence de­pend­ing on how in­clu­sive the gov­ern­ment de­cides to make it.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

ETH­NIC armed groups con­cluded the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit over the week­end on an am­biva­lent note, say­ing they would de­cide whether to at­tend the corner­stone of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s peace plan, the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, only af­ter de­ter­min­ing how all-in­clu­sive the con­fer­ence will be.

Of­fi­cials from the eth­nic armed groups that at­tended the sum­mit said they would call on the gov­ern­ment to in­clude all groups in the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence. In­clu­siv­ity was also a ma­jor stick­ing point in last year’s so-called na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment, with armed groups cur­rently fight­ing with the Tat­madaw and those with­out a stand­ing army not in­vited into the process by the gov­ern­ment of then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein.

“While the [cur­rent] gov­ern­ment is try­ing to in­clude all armed eth­nic or­gan­i­sa­tions, we at the other side are mak­ing the same call. It will de­pend on the talks that we will have with the gov­ern­ment in the com­ing days,” said Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, gen­eral sec­re­tary of Karen Na­tional Union (KNU).

Of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged that the num­ber of groups at­tend­ing the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence will de­pend on the gov­ern­ment, which has yet to send of­fi­cial in­vi­ta­tions to the event slated for the end of Au­gust.

A high-rank­ing Chi­nese diplo­mat who ob­served the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit pledged that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment will sup­port its neigh­bour­ing coun­try’s peace process.

“We en­cour­age all the armed eth­nic or­gan­i­sa­tions to at­tend the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence for the in­ter­nal peace of Myan­mar. We recog­nise that there are di­verse and dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on peace by dif­fer­ent par­ties. We hope that all sides co­op­er­ate for the achieve­ment of peace in Myan­mar,” said Sun Guox­i­ang, spe­cial en­voy for Asian Af­fairs at the for­eign af­fairs min­istry in China.

Mr Sun com­pared armed eth­nic or­gan­i­sa­tions to trav­ellers tak­ing the same train, but join­ing at dif­fer­ent sta­tions.

But Sai Kyaw Nyunt, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Al­liance, a bloc of eth­nic po­lit­i­cal par­ties, said of the anal­ogy, “We can­not be trav­el­ling in the same train if some groups are not given tick­ets or the door is not opened for them.”

Not all eth­nic armed groups at­tended the five-day sum­mit in Kachin State. The Kokang (Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army) and the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army passed up on in­vi­ta­tions to at­tend, though their ally the Arakan Army was present.

The Mongla (Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army) and the United Wa State Army (UWSA) also missed the sum­mit in order to meet with the state coun­sel­lor and the com­man­derin-chief in Nay Pyi Taw.

Khu Oo Reh, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil, said the Kokang and the Ta’ang said they had some dif­fi­cul­ties pre­vent­ing them from join­ing the talks last week, but would co­op­er­ate in later steps of the peace process.

Brigadier Gen­eral Tun Myat Naing, chief of the Arakan Army, told The Myan­mar Times that his two al­lies are un­sure of whether the gov­ern­ment in­tends to in­clude them in the 21stcen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence.

“We have made of­fers and state­ments ex­press­ing that we sup­port the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence. If they [the gov­ern­ment] of­fers a con­struc­tive re­sponse, it will be eas­ier for us to move for­ward. If they want to in­clude us, they have to in­vite our al­lies too. They can­not sep­a­rate us,” he said.

Though the sum­mit was meant to or­gan­ise shared per­spec­tives for the up­com­ing con­fer­ence and to find com­mon ground for long-term fed­eral state-build­ing, the sum­mit was un­able to ad­dress all the is­sues on the ta­ble.

Sum­mit at­ten­dees formed a work­ing group to con­tinue to or­gan­ise the re­main­ing points pro­posed but that had to be left aside due to time lim­i­ta­tions, said Khu Oo Reh, who is also the vice chair of the Karenni Na­tional Pro­gres­sive Party.

“Al­though we could not hold talks on all of the is­sues pro­posed, we ac­com­plished nearly 100 per­cent,” he said.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, at­ten­dees ap­proved a draft of a book­let termed “Ref­er­ence to the Pan­g­long prin­ci­ples”. They also dis­cussed a state struc­ture un­der an ide­alised fed­eral Union.

Par­tic­i­pants also sug­gested that the Tat­madaw should be brought un­der civil­ian con­trol. Gen­eral Gun Maw of the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army (KIA) said this point was widely ac­cepted in the meet­ing, as well as by most peo­ple around the coun­try.

On the frame­work for po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue, they dis­cussed com­po­si­tion and rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as well as how de­ci­sions will be made. Armed groups said they would like to re­duce the com­po­si­tion of the Union Peace Con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants from the cur­rent seven par­ties with more than 700 par­tic­i­pants, to only three par­ties. The ideal num­ber of del­e­gates is yet to be dis­cussed.

Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win of the KNU pointed out that both the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment and Union Peace Di­a­logue Joint Com­mit­tee con­sist of only three par­ties – eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the gov­ern­ment, which rep­re­sents a com­bi­na­tion of the ex­ec­u­tive branch, the hlut­taws and the Tat­madaw.

“We think that if we can con­vene our po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue with just three par­ties, it is more prac­ti­cal,” he said.

Al­though State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had pre­vi­ously said that the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue should dis­cuss po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity mat­ters, the sum­mit at­ten­dees agreed that five is­sues – pol­i­tics, se­cu­rity, eco­nom­ics, so­cial im­pacts and the en­vi­ron­ment – should all be dis­cussed.

Last Oc­to­ber, eight non-state armed or­gan­i­sa­tions chose to sign the NCA with the former gov­ern­ment, while other groups in­clud­ing mem­bers of the UNFC de­clined to sign the agree­ment be­cause of its only par­tial in­clu­sive­ness.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 17 of Myan­mar’s eth­nic armed groups at­tend last week’s Mai Ja Yang sum­mit in Kachin State.

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