Progress reported amid push to achieve inclusive peace conference

Progress has been reported at talks aimed at ensuring the participation in the Panglong 21st Century Peace Conference of armed groups that did not sign the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last October.

The development comes amid intense government efforts to make sure that the conference due to begin on August 31 is inclusive.

A three-day meeting in Yangon that ended on August 13 saw some progress on the issue, said U Hla Maung Shwe, secretary of the conference preparation committee, the state-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

The meeting to review the political dialogue framework for the conference brought together representatives of the government, 16 armed ethnic groups – including the eight that signed the ceasefire – and political parties.

 “We see the dawn of peace,” U Khu Oo Reh, who headed a delegation from the United Nationalities Federal Council representing non-signatory groups, told reporters after the meeting, GNLM reported.

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However, Khu Oo Reh, the vice chairman of the Karenni National Progressive Party, cautioned that it would take time for the non-signatory groups to reach a consensus on the framework.

Hla Maung Shwe said discussions had begun with the UNFC group, the Delegation for Political Negotiation, to hold another round of talks on August 20.

“The road to negotiation is open to all and we will continue discussions with the DPN,” he was quoted as saying by the GNLM.

Meanwhile, the participation in the conference of three armed groups that fought the Tatmadaw last year in Shan State’s Kokang region on the border with China remained unclear.

The three groups have rejected a proposal that they release a statement of intent to disarm as a condition for their participation in the conference, US state-funded broadcaster, Radio Free Asia, reported on August 10.

The decision came at a meeting at Mongla on August 9 attended by representatives of the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Arakan Army, the ethnic Palaung Ta’ang National Liberation Army and U Thein Zaw, a retired lieutenant-general who is the vice chairman of the Myanmar Peace Commission, RFA reported.

The proposal amounted to a concession by the Tatmadaw because it had previously insisted that the groups must surrender before taking part in the conference.

In another development, the Amyotha Hluttaw was told last week that 700 delegates from the government, military, armed ethnic groups and political parties would be invited to the peace conference, RFA reported.

It quoted U Kyaw Tint Swe, minister of the State Counsellor’s Office and a vice chair of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, as saying there would be 75 representatives each from the parliament and the government, 150 each from the military, armed ethnic groups and political parties, 50 ethnic representatives and 50 other invitees.

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