Speech highlights from Panglong Conference opening ceremony
Tatmadaw Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
In his opening remarks at a conference where ethnic armed groups are pushing for greater autonomy, the Tatmadaw chief stressed the need for “national unification”.
Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the Tatmadaw has contributed to the nationbuilding process “through the ages” and will continue to its utmost ability to achieve peace. He also pressed all participants to abide by the controversial six “principles for peace”, as outlined for ethnic armed groups at the beginning of then-president U Thein Sein’s peace process five years ago.
The principles, which have been jettisoned by the ethnic armed group leaders and criticised by analysts as offering more of a stumbling block to cooperation than a roadmap to peace, include the demand that ethnic parties and their armed wings adhere to the 2008 constitution. The charter preserves key roles for the Tatmadaw.
Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing encouraged conference participants to consider what they are able to contribute to the peace process instead of focusing on what they desire from it. He added that all groups should pursue their aims through democratic channels such as parliament. “We should have a dialogue for peace without being too ethnocentric,” he added.
KIA Major General N’ Ban La
The peace talks must follow in line with the legacy of the historic 1947 Panglong Agreement, the leader of the Kachin Independence Organisation said in his speech yesterday.
“The reason why we, the nonBamar ethnic people, are staging armed revolution is because of the loss of the Panglong Agreement’s guarantees for democracy, national equality and self-determination of ethnic people,” said Maj Gen N’ Ban La, head of the United Nationalities Federal Council and vice chair of the KIO.
The KIO’s presence at the conference, he said, is meant to be a show of support for the National League for Democracy-backed government following the former opposition party’s election victory last year. “This is the very first step of the [new administration’s] long-term peace negotiations that will solve decades-long conflicts,” he said.
He added that the federal Union that the armed ethnic organisations are demanding is not a request to secede from the Union, but is a call for equality for the ethnic nationalities.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
The state counsellor urged attendees at the Union Peace Conference to strive for peace for the sake of Myanmar’s displaced peoples as well as its future generations at the conference opening yesterday.
“We should work to achieve peace, keeping in mind the sacrifices of our founding fathers and not forgetting those who suffer from ongoing conflicts, to leave a legacy that will testify to our mercy for future generations.”
The state counsellor congratulated former president U Thein Sein for initiating the peace process under the USDP-led administration. President U Thein Sein invited armed ethnic organisations to negotiate with the government in 2013, culminating in the signing of a “nationwide” ceasefire agreement in October 2015. The pact was widely criticised when only eight groups resolved to sign it.
The state counsellor emphasised in her speech that “more trust has been built” between Myanmar’s political stakeholders at conference peace talks.
“Across the country, people watch with fearful eyes every time there is a peace summit,” she said. “We should not forget that they are suffering.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon heralded the historic nature of yesterday’s 21st-century Panglong Conference, noting, “There is a long road ahead, but the path is very promising.”
“The long civil war has cost numerous lives and robbed successive generations of their dignity, tranquillity and normalcy. It is now clear that there can be no military solution to your differences,” he said.
“I congratulate all sides for the patience, endurance, determination and spirit of compromise you have demonstrated in support of national reconciliation,” he said, noting that there would be more trade-offs to come.
“Every side must win something if the process is to succeed.” – Lun Min Mang and Ei Ei Toe Lwin