The high stakes and lofty goals of the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

THE five-day Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence kicks off to­mor­row in Nay Pyi Taw. The event is the Na­tional League for Democ­racy’s in­au­gu­ral bid at na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion – a point it has called a pri­or­ity since tak­ing of­fice in April – and both hopes and ten­sions are run­ning high in the lead-up.

The ba­sics The con­fer­ence will be at­tended by around 1800 in­vi­tees, in­clud­ing eth­nic armed groups, po­lit­i­cal par­ties, in­ter­na­tional diplo­mats, donors to the peace process and in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Lend­ing in­ter­na­tional clout to the event, UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki­moon has con­firmed he will at­tend the first day of the con­fer­ence.

In a de­par­ture from the peace process of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, non-sig­na­to­ries to last year’s na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment have also been in­vited to the con­fer­ence. The NLD ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­peat­edly stressed that it places im­por­tance on an all-in­clu­sive ap­proach. How­ever, it ap­pears likely that the “North­ern Al­liance” – the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (TNLA), the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA) – will be ab­sent from the event fol­low­ing ob­jec­tions to pre-con­di­tions laid out for their par­tic­i­pa­tion, in­clud­ing the de­mand that they “sur­ren­der their stance of armed strug­gle”.

Chinese-Myan­mar re­la­tion­ships and the peace process The peace process has served as a hot­bed for the com­pet­ing Chinese and Amer­i­can spheres of in­flu­ence in Myan­mar.

The Global Times, a Chinese gov­ern­ment mouth­piece, claimed on Au­gust 23 that civil so­ci­ety groups funded West­ern coun­tries were in­cit­ing anti-Chinese at­ti­tudes in Myan­mar.

The United Wa State Army (UWSA), Myan­mar’s most pow­er­ful eth­nic armed group and one which main­tains close ties with China, last year vowed it would not par­tic­i­pate in the cease­fire agree­ment if the US, Japan and Europe con­tinue to take part in al­legedly fu­elling the con­flicts in north­ern Myan­mar.

Just be­fore Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s five-day trip to China ear­lier this month, of­fi­cials of both the UWSA and the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army (NDAA), also known as the Mongla, said they have agreed to at­tend the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence.

And dur­ing the state coun­sel­lor’s visit, Chinese lead­ers pledged sup­port for Myan­mar’s na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

A good be­gin­ning makes a good end­ing Se­cur­ing in­ter­nal peace, es­tab­lish­ing a fed­eral demo­cratic Union and gen­er­at­ing a con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tee­ing equal eth­nic rights are just some of the high hopes un­der­pin­ning the up­com­ing peace talks.

How­ever, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts point out that a con­fer­ence of 1800 peo­ple is un­likely to con­clude with any piv­otal de­ci­sions.

An­a­lyst U Than Naing Soe said that it is im­por­tant for Tat­madaw and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to use the con­fer­ence to build trust and to lay the ground­work of a good be­gin­ning in or­der to se­cure pos­i­tive re­sults for fu­ture ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sions will not even be on the ta­ble at the con­fer­ence, since the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue frame­work has yet to be fi­nalised.

More­over, if po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue starts without all eth­nic armed groups sign­ing the NCA, it could cre­ate the im­pres­sion that non-sig­na­to­ries are be­ing given pri­or­ity, ac­cord­ing to some of the peace del­e­gates.

Since U Thein Sein’s gov­ern­ment laid down the guide­line that eth­nic armed groups can at­tend the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logues only af­ter sign­ing the NCA, it is ap­pears likely that fur­ther sign­ings will fol­low the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the frame­work. The po­lit­i­cal di­a­logues are sched­uled to be held once every six months.

Al­though im­prob­a­ble that the 21stcen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence will re­sult in tan­gi­ble out­comes on the scale of the 1947 it­er­a­tion, hopes are still high that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi can reignite the long jour­ney to­ward end­ing decades of armed con­flict.

– Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

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