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.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - KHIN SU WAI SWAN YE HTUT news­room@mm­ – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Pyae Thet Phyo, trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe and Thiri Min Htun

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.

Photo: AFP

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.

Photo: Sup­plied

Over 1000 Shan eth­nic peo­ple protest against civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in My­itky­ina on Au­gust 28.

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