Non-NCA groups given Panglong committee seats
Eight seats on the joint preparatory committee for the 21st-century Panglong Conference have been reserved for non-signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement.
EIGHT seats have been reserved for non-signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement on the joint preparatory committee for the upcoming 21st-century Panglong Conference, sources involved in the planning said yesterday after a meeting of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee.
During the meeting of the UPDJC – a key tripartite peace committee comprising representatives of the government, ethnic armed group NCA signatories and political parties – attendees agreed to grant the eight seats to the non-signatory ethnic armed groups, who will sit with equal standing to eight representatives from the signatories.
The committee they will join is tasked with preparing for the five-day Panglong Conference, which will convene on August 31.
Ahead of the UPDJC’s meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, ethnic armed organisations, political parties and the government held a series of meetings last week at Yangon’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center to review the framework for political dialogue, but were unable to complete the reassessment process.
“As per the NCA [terms], ethnic armed organisations can become members of the UPDJC only after they sign the ceasefire pact. We have to form the joint preparatory committee so that non-signatory groups can participate,” said Sai Kyaw Nyunt, an ethnic Shan politician from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.
The joint preparatory committee will now consist of representatives from the government, political parties, and ethnic armed organisations of both signatory and non-signatory groups.
“There are seven seats for the Delegation for Political Negotiation, an ethnic negotiating body, and one seat for Mong La,” Sai Kyaw Nyunt said, with Mong La referring to the Shan State-based National Democratic Alliance Army. “Thus there will be a total of 16 members from ethnic armed organisations.”
The DPN is a negotiating body for the United Nationalities Federal Council, an umbrella alliance of nine NCA non-signatories.
On May 31, the government created the joint preparatory committee and two subcommittees, one for signatories and the other for non-signatories, in order to address the split that exists between ethnic armed groups. Eight signed the NCA in October, and about a dozen others opted out of the accord or were denied a chance to sign.
U Hla Maung Shwe, the UPDJC secretary, said Panglong Conference organisers would await the names put forward from the non-signatory groups to represent them on the joint preparatory committee.
In addition, members of the UPDJC also agreed to replace the words “conference representatives” with “conference attendees”, a tweak designed to allow non-signatory groups to join the Panglong Conference without feeling their status to be inferior to that of their signatory counterparts.
“Since we still have not finished the framework review and negotiations on the talks’ representation, we cannot use the words ‘conference representatives’,” Sai Kyaw Nyunt said, explaining that “conference representatives”, in the official lexicon of the framework agreement, would have applied only to NCA signatories.
Despite failure to complete the framework review and other unfinished business as the days wind down to August 31, the Panglong Conference is set to convene on its originally scheduled date.
Expectations for the long-awaited gathering have been tempered in recent days, however, with organisers saying few matters of substance will be on the table and no decisions will be made.
“Parties to the peace talks can submit their points of view at the Panglong Conference. There will not be any discussion or exchange of views,” said Sai Kyaw Nyunt.
Two hundred representatives from ethnic armed groups will be invited to the Panglong Conference, it was agreed at yesterday’s UPDJC meeting.
Whether the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army still have a chance to participate in the Panglong Conference is unclear. The three groups’ status has remained uncertain for weeks, in part complicated by a demand that they turn over their arms to a mutually agreed third party in order to formally join the peace process.
That condition, which the three groups view unfavourably, stems from a temporary alliance they formed last year in northeast Shan State, where conflict with the Tatmadaw that first flared in February in the Kokang region dragged on for months.
The groups’ officials previously said they hoped the government would offer another set of talks before the conference to clarify lingering uncertainty over the terms of their participation.
Both the political dialogue framework’s review and national-level peace summits will continue following the Panglong Conference, with a senior government official on August 15 saying the latter would be convened every six months thereafter. The government’s peace team is also scheduled to meet with the DPN ahead of the Panglong Conference.
‘We have to form the joint preparatory committee so that non-signatory groups can participate.’
Sai Kyaw Nyunt Shan Nationalities League for Democracy