Peace conference kicks off
Tensions are running high as the 21st-century Panglong Conference starts today amid renewed military offensives and spats over inclusivity, name-cards and the “federal Union” which continued into the eleventh hour.
FRESH fighting, protests against civilian casualties and a parliamentary spat over federalism have clouded the government’s major peace campaign kicking off in Nay Pyi Taw today, with some warning the renewed offensives could thwart progress.
Residents of Myitkyina rolled out the picket line on August 28, protesting the continued fighting between ethnic armed groups and the Tatmadaw. Over 1000 Shan people gathered for the march, noting the civilian casualties inflicted in the course of fighting in Kachin State. The protest was organised by a Shan ethnic affairs group.
The protesters held a vigil for five recent deaths including two killed in Nyaung Thar Yar village and a mine blast that killed three in Mogaung township’s Sar Hmaw village, protester Sai San Wai told The Myanmar Times.
Representatives from ethnic armed groups told AFP that the Tatmadaw had launched new attacks on rebel positions in Shan and Kachin states yesterday morning. The representatives warned that the fresh advances could stall any substantive negotiations the peace talks, which begin in Nay Pyi Taw today.
But seeming to undermine the very foundation of the talks – and the “Panglong spirit” so frequently quoted by the state counsellor – yesterday a military MP disputed the “federal Union” terminology underpinning the conference.
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw was discussing a draft notice in support of the 21st-century Panglong Conference.
“The term ‘democratic federal union’ used in the draft goes against the constitution in chapter 1, sections 7 and 8,” said Amyotha Hluttaw military representative Major General Than Soe.
The quoted sections refer to a “disciplined, multi-party democratic system” but do not include the term “federal Union”, a distinction pushed by the ethnic groups who have argued for greater ethnic autonomy and the promise of federalism dating back to the 1947 Panglong Agreement.
After the suggestion to remove the disputed wording, the Speaker held a vote on the support motion, which passed with a substantial 184 votes against, compared to 391 votes in favour and 5 abstentions.
The five-day Panglong Conference launches with an opening ceremony at 9:45am today, followed by speeches by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw Speakers, Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, a leader of the ethnic armed groups, a leader of the invited political parties and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The first day will conclude with a state dinner.
Police and military officials inspect preparations at the Myanmar International Convention Centre 2 in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday, ahead of the 21st-century Panglong Conference.
Over 1000 Shan ethnic people protest against civilian casualties in Myitkyina on August 28.