Govt sets Feb. 28 for start of next peace conference


NAY PYI TAW — The second 21st Century Panglong Conference will be held in Nay Pyi Taw on February 28, the government has confirmed, after a meeting of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee in the capital on Monday.

But it is not yet clear whether or not non-signatories of the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, signed between the previous government and eight non-state armed groups in October 2015, will be invited to attend.

“We cannot say for sure if the non-signatory ethnic armed groups such as the KIA [Kachin Independence Army] will attend or not at this moment,” said U Zaw Htay, director general of the President’s Office. “We will make preparations over the coming days and will negotiate with non-signatories.”

The first peace conference under the National League for Democracy government, and the second since the NCA was signed, was held in Nay Pyi Taw in late August. Three groups in active fighting with the government – the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army – did not attend after the military demanded they commit to unilateral disarmament.

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Last year, fighting spiked between the Tatmadaw and the KIA in the north of the country, and in November an alliance of ethnic armed groups calling itself the Northern Alliance – comprising troops from the KIA, TNLA, MNDAA and AA – launched a fresh offensive near Muse.

U Khun Myint Htun, chairman of NCA signatory the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation and who attended the UPDJC meeting, said about 700 attendants, the same as in August, would attend this month’s conference and that negotiations are being made with non-signatories to determine if they will be allowed to attend as official delegates.

“During that time, ethnic Pa-O minorities are going to hold a national level political dialogue in Hopong Township, Shan State [in the Pa-O Self-Administered Zone] and national level regional political dialogues will be held in Bago Region,” he said.

In a speech to open the meeting on Monday Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is chair of the UPDJC, urged attendants to make an effort to make clear-cut decisions that will promote peace-building ahead of the peace conference.

“According to my experience it is worth giving. If you give with true good-will without an ulterior motive it is always worth it. But if you give it because you want something back and your expectation was not fulfilled, you might not feel like giving. If in the first place, you did it out of your own belief that you are supporting good for all, you are sure to succeed,” she told the attendants of the meeting, which was held at Thingaha Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw.

Padoh Saw Kwee Htoo Win, general secretary of the Karen National Union and deputy chairman of the UPDJC, talked of the importance of using the meeting to encourage a political dialogue.

“Every decision made at this meeting must be acceptable for all and implementable for all, to be able to continue the peace process,” he said.

The meeting also discussed recent meetings with communities in Kayin State as well as political dialogue in Tanintharyi Region. As well as a timeline for the peace conference, matters of delegations and policies for the peace conference were discussed.

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