Government envisions Union peace dialogue every six months
WITHOUT peace there will not be any economic development, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday as chair of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), while a senior member of her government revealed its plan to hold high-level peace conferences every six months.
“We will have peace of mind only once we have peace,” she said at a committee session in Nay Pyi Taw. “Without long-term peace, we cannot control the economy for public development.”
The economy could falter without peace, she added.
“We will not ignore economic and social development, but the way of peace is important,” she said. “We will focus on them at the same time because we cannot fulfill the people’s physical and mental needs if there is no peace in the country.”
A unified vision of the future is necessary, she said.
“The common agreement is simple,” she said. “I want to build a vast, authentic Union.”
It is essential, she said, for all ethnic groups to be included in that Union.
“It is very important to negotiate our differences of opinion,” she said. “For positive outcomes, we should have a variety of opinions. We must use our negotiation skills to get the best from all those varieties of opinion.”
The 21st-century Panglong Conference, which the state counsellor was referencing, will start on August 31.
Speaking to The Myanmar Times following yesterday’s UPDJC meeting, U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, said after the Panglong Conference concludes, the government will convene similar dialogues every six months.
Addressing lingering uncertainty over a dichotomy that remains between signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement and non-signatories, the senior official appeared to indicate that the two groups would be afforded an equal seat at the negotiating table. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was “opening the door wider”, he said.
“For us, signatories and non-signatories to the NCA are of the same status to attend the peace conference. We did not stipulate that only signatories can attend the conference,” he added.
The attendance of a trio of ethnic armed groups in particular – the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army – looked questionable last week after the government seemed to indicate that they would need to disarm in order to join the peace process going forward.
The three groups were not invited to negotiations that led to the signing of last year’s NCA, and while they are among about a dozen non-signatories to the NCA, their relationship with the Tatmadaw and the government has been approached as different from the rest.
“All can be included in the peace conference – from the Tatmadaw side and the armed ethnic groups’ side,” said UPDJC member Aye Maung, who is also a member of the Arakan National Party. “If we can begin to take steps toward national reconciliation … it would be better for the Union. We agreed in the meeting on that opinion.” He echoed that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has asked for the peace talks to include all ethnic groups.
“The new government started halfway through the process,” he said. “It has a big responsibility. The whole Union needs to have a generous mind and authorities should have a more generous spirit.”
Zaw Htay said about 1600 people were expected to attend the conference from an array of backgrounds and capacities, while noting a distinction between “attendees” and “conference representatives”. Last week another senior cabinet official said a final roster of the conference’s official participants would number about 700.
Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee chair Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attends a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.