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.
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.