Kayah political parties boycott Panglong Conference
KAYAH State-based political parties have rejected an invitation to next week’s 21st-century Panglong Conference, expressing dissatisfaction at the meagre representational quota they have been granted as unsuccessful contestants in last year’s election.
According to the National League for Democracy government’s plan for the conference, about 70 political parties that did not win any seats in the November election will be granted just five seats at the table, out of about 700 representatives in total.
“We got an invitation letter from the National Reconciliation and Peace Center. We decided it doesn’t make a difference whether we attend the conference or not. We reject participation and object to the invitation,” said U Phoe Yal, chair of the All Nationalities Democracy Party (ANDP).
The ANDP, the Kayah Unity Democracy Party (KUDP) and the Kayan National Party (KNP) jointly decided on August 20 that they would not attend the Panglong Conference, the NLD’s first major foray into Myanmar’s peace process.
A statement released by the three groups said, “To the Kayah State parties, it seems like discrimination against political parties that didn’t win a seat in the 2015 election.”
On August 10, a senior NLD cabinet official announced that about 700 representatives were expected to attend the Panglong Conference. According to a political dialogue framework approved under the previous government, the executive and parliament are both set to hold 75 seats, with 150 seats each for the Tatmadaw, ethnic armed organisations and election-winning political parties, and 50 seats each for ethnic representatives and “other invitees”.
U Phoe Yal said the five seats for political parties without representation in the nation’s legislatures would fall under the latter two groupings totalling 100.
Echoing the ANDP leader’s complaint, U Khum Bee Htoo, chair of the KNP, said five seats were too few for the dozens of political parties that contested the election unsuccessfully.
U Phoe Yal said Kayah State political parties would instead rely on proxy representation at the Panglong Conference, which is due to convene on August 31 in Nay Pyi Taw.
“We will not attend but other attendants from our state will represent our expectations on the peace framework and federal Union,” he said. “We already discussed the issues for 21st-century Panglong among armed groups, political parties and CSOs.”
The three parties’ statement said they had not been informed of the outcome of a review of the framework for political dialogue that took place earlier this month, as well as being kept in the dark on the forthcoming Panglong Conference.
Meanwhile, with just over a week until the Nay Pyi Taw gathering, ethnic armed groups, political parties, civil society organisations and youth associations nationwide are busy preparing to present their positions – and jockeying for political space.
A statement released by ethnic youth activists following a recent summit in Shan State demanded that youth voices be accorded a specific allocation of seats at the Panglong Conference.