Panglong Conference to start on August 31
The cornerstone of the government’s peace plan will just meet the promised timeline, the state counsellor’s office announced yesterday after high-level meetings in Nay Pyi Taw.
THE linchpin of the government’s peace process will be convened on August 31, just in time to meet the promised schedule, the central preparation committee for the 21st-century Panglong Conference revealed yesterday.
The duration of the conference has yet to be announced, with more specific logistics to be determined next week, U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, told The Myanmar Times.
“We will have a meeting of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee [a tripartite committee comprised of the government, political parties and signatory armed ethnic groups] on August 15 in Nay Pyi Taw. At that meeting, we will discuss and determine how long the 21st-century Panglong Conference will be,” he said.
Yesterday’s announcement was made shortly after the state counsellor held a two-hour-long meeting with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at the Presidential Residence.
The state counsellor’s official Facebook page released a short statement saying the discussion between the two powerbrokers focused mainly on the peace process.
“The prospect of a ceasefire in Kachin State and northern Shan State, national reconciliation and internal peace, and rule of law and stability,” were all talking points, according to the statement.
Holding the Union Peace Conference was also on the agenda at the meeting, which involved several other high-level officials, including the Union attorney general, the chair of the peace commission and the minister for border affairs.
Photos released of the meeting showed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the commander-in-chief greeting each other warmly and laughing. According to political analysts, the state counsellor and senior general have worked hard to thaw frosty relations in the lead-up to the Panglong Conference, or at least project the appearance of congenial ties.
The series of public appearances together began in mid-July when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi accompanied Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing on a visit to the Military Museum in Nay Pyi Taw. This was followed by the commanderin-chief’s historic involvement in Martyrs’ Day commemorative events, and a lunch at Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Inya Lake-side home. Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing also watched a football match alongside President U Htin Kyaw.
The military meanwhile has also taken unprecedented steps in the name of national reconciliation, including admitting the Tatmadaw’s involvement in killing five civilian murders.
The Tatmadaw also appears to have softened its outlook on the inclusivity of the peace process.
Previously, the Tatmadaw was adamant that all three Kokang allies must surrender their arms before joining the peace talks. But last week, retired lieutenant general U Khin Zaw Oo, secretary of the government’s Peace Commission, said three allies that had been barred from the peace process under such terms may now be allowed to participate in the Panglong.
The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA) – three non-ceasefire signatories currently engaged in clashes against the Tatamdaw – will be invited so long as they formally signal their readiness to be engaged in the peace process, U Khin Zaw Oo said.
U Aung Thu Nyein, a member of the newly formed Institute for Strategy and Policy for Myanmar, told The Myanmar Times the state counsellor and commander-in-chief’s cementing of ties bodes well for the upcoming conference.
U Than Soe Naing, a political commentator, said the Tatmadaw commander-in-chief is fulfilling his pledge of helping the new administration achieve peace within its five year term.
“For years, the military’s reputation and image with regards to human rights was tarnished,” he said. “But I think with the chance to cooperate with the state counsellor and to further her agenda of peace, they want a cleaner image.”
Armed ethnic groups, including signatories and non-signatories to last year’s nationwide ceasefire agreement, have also been solidifying their unity as they gear up for the Panglong Conference. The five-day Mai Ja Yang summit in territory controlled by the Kachin Independence Army concluded at the end of July with the pledge to uphold the common goals of a longterm federal Union and to work for a positive outcome for the 21st-century Panglong Conference.
But U Than Soe Naing cautioned the conference will need to start off on the best foot possible in order to secure any substantial agreements between the government, the Tatmadaw and the ethnic groups.
“We cannot predict if the conference will succeed or not. But … its success will determine the reputation and the legacy of both the state counsellor and the Tatmadaw commander-inchief,” he said.
‘[The Panglong’s] success will determine the reputation and the legacy of both the state counsellor and the Tatmadaw commander-in-chief.’
Than Naing Soe Political commentator
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (right) met with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (centre) yesterday.