Debates continue as Panglong looms
Day two of a meeting to review the framework for political dialogue at next week’s 21stcentury Panglong Conference got hung up on questions of representation and decision-making.
TWO hurdles bedevilled a final consensus at the second-day meeting to review the framework for political dialogue – a core instrument for upcoming peace negotiations – involving representatives from the government, ethnic armed organisations and political parties.
Meanwhile, a joint convening committee for the 21st-century Panglong Conference was formed yesterday as the two-day meeting resumed at Yangon’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center to review the political dialogue framework and prepare for the upcoming conference.
Sai Kyaw Nyunt, an ethnic Shan politician from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), told The Myanmar Times that agreement among the parties was nearly reached on the “five subjects of discussion” that will be on the table in political dialogue meetings to follow the Panglong Conference.
“We discussed reducing the subtitles [grouped] under the five subjects of the dialogue and only a few sub-titles of the 10 have yet to be agreed,” he said.
Though State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi previously said the initial political dialogue should only discuss “politics and security matters”, ethnic armed groups at a meeting in Mai Ja Yang, Kachin State, last month agreed to tack four more subjects – social and economic issues, as well as land and natural resource management – on to the state counsellor’s suggested agenda.
“The two major titles for which there were tough debates among participants of the talks are on ‘representation and decision-making’ issues,” Sai Kyaw Nyunt said.
While the government maintains that the representation of successive political dialogues post-Panglong Conference should be broken down into seven parties, ethnic armed organisations agreed at their Mai Ja Yang meeting to reduce the composition to only three groups – the government, ethnic armed groups and political parties – in hopes of streamlining the political dialogue.
Also holding back negotiators is disagreement over the vote thresholds required among stakeholders in order for decisions to be officially taken at the political dialogue.
Nonetheless, with the participation in yesterday’s talks of the Delegation for Political Negotiation, made up of representatives from ethnic armed group non-signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement, a Panglong Conference joint convening committee was officially formed.
Minister for the State Counsellor’s Office U Kyaw Tint Swe was selected as chair of the committee, with three vice chairs – U Tin Myo Win from the government, Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win representing ethnic armed groups and U Thu Wai on behalf of political parties – selected as well.
Under the joint committee, a working committee consisting of 10 members was also formed. It too is a tripartite committee consisting of representatives of government, ethnic armed groups and political parties, and was assigned to draw up a detailed program on how the Panglong Conference will be held.
Salai Lian Hmung, a senior official from the Chin National Front, an NCA signatory group, said non-signatory ethnic armed groups have yet to submit a list of members who will join the joint preparatory committee. A decision to include the non-signatories in the committee was made last week.
Similar to the NCA signing ceremony in October between the former government and eight non-state armed groups, the upcoming Panglong Conference will also host observers from the international community.
“We will invite donors to the peace process, international organisations and diplomats to the ceremony,” Salai Lian Hmung said.
Organisers have previously described the five-day Panglong Conference as merely a “grand opening ceremony” for the incumbent government’s peace plans.
“We are sure that 18 armed ethnic organisations will cooperate with us in the peace process, while negotiations for the three groups continue,” Salai Lian Hmung said, referring to the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army, a trio of ethnic armed groups whose participation remains uncertain.
A Tatmadaw demand that the three groups turn their arms over to an agreed third party in order to join the peace process has been met unfavourably by the armies in question.
Non-election-winning political parties are scheduled to meet today to select among themselves the five representatives they have been granted as Panglong Conference attendees. U Hla Maung Shwe, a senior peace envoy for the government, said all chairpersons of officially registered political parties would be invited to the first day of the conference on August 31.
U Thu Wai, chair of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), in closing remarks yesterday urged negotiators from the government and ethnic armed organisations to solve major differences through dialogue.
“If there happen to be diverse perspectives among us, they should be resolved by dialogue as written in the text of the nationwide ceasefire agreement. This is also the democratic way. Different governments’ peace processes in the past did not have absolute success, but we have a desire to see success at this Panglong Conference to the fullest extent,” he said.
Salai Lian Hmung from the Chin National Front speaks to the media in Yangon yesterday.
Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win of the Karen National Union speaks at yesterday’s meeting at Yangon’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center.