Rakhine Party Calls For Myanmar Government to Postpone Next Panglong Conference

A Rakhine political party wants the Myanmar government to postpone the next round of national peace talks after a joint committee on Monday suspended advance regional-level discussions in Chin and Rakhine states.

The Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) objected to the decision by the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) to put on hold regional-level discussions about policies regarding national-level talks planned by the ALP and the Chin National Front (CNF) based in western Myanmar’s Chin state before the next meeting of the 21st-Century Panglong Conference on Feb. 28.

“The [Panglong] Conference should be postponed if necessary because we need to have the regional level forums in Rakhine and Chin States held and views taken before the (national-level) conference opens,” said Mra Yazar Lin, a member of the ALP’s central executive committee.

Both the ALP and CNF are among the eight ethnic militias that signed the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) in October 2015.

Mra Yazar Lin pointed out that NCA guidelines stipulate that regional forums must precede the Panglong Conference, whose meetings are being held every six months under the civilian government led by de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Regional-level discussions are set to be held under the guidance of a steering committee comprising three representatives from the UPDJC’s government-parliament-military group, three representatives from its ethnic armed groups, and three representatives from political parties.

“We are ready for the steering committee,” Mra Yazar Lin told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “These forums are to be held in areas where the eight armed ethnic groups who signed the NCA are operating.”

“Aung San Suu Kyi had said [earlier] that regional-level forums must be completed in every state before the conference,” she said. “Only this forum can present the desires of our entire Rakhine people, so we must hold it.”

The UPDJC gave no reason for suspending regional-level talks in Rakhine and Chin states.

Other ethnic minority parties that have signed the NCA have been permitted to hold discussions in their respective regions in advance of the next Panglong Conference.

The government has made peace and national reconciliation among various ethnic militias and the national army its main goal, though hostilities continue in some areas of the country.

A crowd watches a military parade by the Shan State Army-South on Shan National Day in Loi Tai Leng in Myanmar’s northeastern Shan state, Feb. 7, 2015. Credit: AFP Shan state commemoration

Also on Tuesday, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS-SSA) said in a statement that it will strive to find ways to live peacefully in Myanmar and to solve the political problems facing Shan state.

The RSCC/SAA, which is an NCA signatory, hosted a ceremony the same day to commemorate the 70th Shan National Day at its headquarters in Loi Tai Leng on the Myanmar-Thailand border.

The day commemorates a meeting of ethnic Shan leaders who formed a united Shan state with the agreement of former ruling hereditary princes and the public on Feb. 7, 1947.

The meeting came five days before the signing of the original Panglong Agreement, whereby Shan, Kachin, and Chin ethnic minority leaders signed a pact with independence hero General Aung San, father of Aung San Suu Kyi, to grant the groups ethnic autonomy in an independent Burma. The country had been a British colony.

Thousands attended the ceremony at Loi Tai Leng, including foreign diplomats, leaders from Shan political parties, and representatives from the CNF, Karen National Union (KNU), the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.

Myanmar President Htin Gyaw in his message of well wishes said some areas of the country have not been able to enjoy the benefits of independence yet because of armed conflicts.

He also said the government is working hard to achieve national reconciliation and make the peace process a success.

While past commemorations have served as a show of political might of the RCSS/SSA, this year’s ceremony was more of a cultural celebration, according to The Irrawaddy.

No military parade in Karen state

Meanwhile, Colonel Aung Lwin, minister of security and border affairs in southeastern Myanmar’s Karen state, has banned weapons and military parades at the 70th Mon State Day that will be held by the New Mon State Party (NMSP) on Feb. 12.

Nai Sairot, the NMSP liaison office chief in the border town of Paya Thonsu, said he had received a letter of notification on Jan. 25.

“It was signed by the minister’s office,” he told RFA. “We have been holding these parades for the past seven decades and military parades for 21 years. This is the first time a ban has been issued.”

A request to lift the ban for the annual parade failed to elicit a response from the authorities, he said.

Now the celebrations committee will stick to the original plan to include a military parade at the ceremony in Japun Yedwin village near the border with Thailand, Nai Sairot said.

The NMSP signed a cease-fire pact with the government in 1995, but the accord was invalidated when the party refused to transform itself into a border guard unit under government control.

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