First political dialogue to convene in November
The state counsellor has called for the national-level dialogues to start as soon as possible, with next month’s ‘pilot project’ to divide talks into region-, ethnic- and topic-based groups.
STATE Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi intends to convene the first “national-level political dialogues” as early as next month.
Speaking at the first day of a Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on October 28, she described the initial dialogues as a “pilot project” that will break national-level talks down into three groups – region-, ethnic- and topic-based.
“As a pilot project, I’d like to start the three national-level political talks as soon as possible ... I’d like as much as possible to hold them in November. After these dialogues, we can see the weaknesses and challenges and can decide what we should do to ensure success,” said the state counsellor, who also serves as UPDJC chair.
“It is not possible to hold political talks across Myanmar at the same time because we face challenges of practicality. So we need to search for a solution on how to overcome these challenges,” she added.
She said the “pilot project” approach, more limited in scope, would allow for a more effective assessment of the pros and cons of the process.
Dialogues based on ethnic affairs, topics and regions will be held in Kayin State, Nay Pyi Taw and Thanintharyi Region, respectively.
Negotiators earlier this month narrowed down the lists of acceptable topics to politics, economics, social factors, security, and land and environmental issues.
“We agreed to start dialogues as soon as possible where they can be,” said Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong, vice chair of the Chin National Front, who attended the UPDJC meeting.
Though amending the constitution is not an explicit agenda item, the national-level dialogues will touch on the issue indirectly via broader talks about establishing a democratic, federal system of government.
“It is not aimed at directly amending the constitution,” Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong told The Myanmar Times after the second day of the UPDJC meeting on October 29.
He added that the matters discussed at the national-level political dialogues will then be taken up at a future UPDJC meeting, with areas of agreement and points of contention to be compiled and submitted to a Union Peace Conference slated for February 2017.
“We can sign a Union-level agreement after consensus is reached at in the Union Peace Conference. The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw will approve the agreement. After that, we will proceed to discuss amending the 2008 constitution,” Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong said, describing a process laid out in the framework for political dialogue drafted by the UPDJC.
“Supervisory committees” will be formed to oversee the process, he said.
“Supervisory committees will be formed with relevant [representatives of] regional government, parliament, the Tatmadaw, ethnic armed groups and political parties. We have agreed to form the supervisory committee with three members from each group in a region or state,” he said.
At present, those eligible to participate in the national-level political dialogues include representatives from the government, parliament, the Tatmadaw, ethnic armed groups party to the nationwide ceasefire agreement, political parties, ethnic representatives and civil society groups.
Ethnic politicians last week expressed concern that NCA non-signatories would not be included in the national-level talks. Numbering about a dozen, these groups are some of the nation’s largest ethnic fighting forces and by one estimate account for up to four-fifths of all ethnic armed combatants in Myanmar.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attends the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee in Nay Pyi Taw.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee in Nay Pyi Taw on October 28.