Wa and Mongla pos­i­tive about peace process

Fol­low­ing talks in the cap­i­tal, two eth­nic armed groups in Shan State, in­clud­ing Myan­mar’s largest non-state army, are op­ti­mistic about prospects for the 21stcen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - PYAE THET PHYO pyae­thet­phyo@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

TWO pow­er­ful eth­nic armed groups from the Wa and Mongla spe­cial re­gions are op­ti­mistic that the gov­ern­ment’s much-touted 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence late this month can be­gin the process of heal­ing decades­old eth­nic di­vi­sions, ac­cord­ing to U Zaw Htay, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral for the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice.

“They hold out much hope for the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence re­gard­ing the peace-mak­ing process and col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Union gov­ern­ment,” the deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral said af­ter he and State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the two groups on July 29.

Both groups are non-sig­na­to­ries to the so-called na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment and en­joy ad­min­is­tra­tive au­ton­omy over the re­gions they con­trol along the bor­der with China in Shan State. The Wa Spe­cial Re­gion is run by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the coun­try’s largest non­state armed groups, with es­ti­mates putting its troop strength at 20,000 to 30,000.

Their op­ti­mism stems from the fact that the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence and prepa­ra­tions for it are be­ing steered by the state coun­sel­lor, U Zaw Htay said.

“They have raised hopes on the con­di­tion that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi heads the con­fer­ence in the same way that her fa­ther Bo­gyoke Aung San united the coun­try with the Pan­g­long spirit,” he said, re­fer­ring to the orig­i­nal Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence and sub­se­quent ac­cord in 1947, when then-Burma’s in­de­pen­dence hero bro­kered a his­toric agree­ment of­fer­ing au­ton­omy to three eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups.

The talks held in Nay Pyi Taw last week did not ad­dress the weighty is­sues at the fore of the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, which will bring to­gether eth­nic armed groups, the civil­ian gov­ern­ment, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and military lead­ers.

“Th­ese mat­ters – such as about eth­nic peo­ple’s rights and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion – should be dis­cussed at the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence. It is the fo­rum to re­solve the prob­lems that have ex­isted for a long the time af­ter Myan­mar gained in­de­pen­dence,” U Zaw Htay said.

Both sig­na­to­ries and non-sig­na­to­ries to the NCA, signed by eight non­state armed groups in Oc­to­ber 2015, are ex­pected to at­tend the con­fer­ence.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has al­ready ex­pressed [her com­mit­ment] to build­ing a demo­cratic fed­eral Union. So, we will make a Union agree­ment that in­cludes self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and equal­ity that all eth­nic groups can ac­cept. Then, we will amend the con­sti­tu­tion,” the deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral said.

In their dis­cus­sions with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the UWSA pledged not to se­cede from Myan­mar un­der any cir­cum­stance.

“The at­ti­tude of the Wa is that it is a part of the Repub­lic of the Union of Myan­mar. They com­mit­ted to not sep­a­rat­ing from Myan­mar,” U Zaw Htay said.

At­tend­ing last week’s talks in Nay Pyi Taw were U Pao Yu Yi, vice gen­eral sec­re­tary of the UWSA, and Sai Lin, who chairs the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army, which con­trols the Mongla Spe­cial Re­gion. Both men were ac­com­pa­nied by del­e­ga­tions from their re­spec­tive lead­er­ship teams.

The two del­e­ga­tions later met with Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing, Myan­mar’s com­man­der-in-chief.

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