Friday, August 18, 2017

Ethnic groups seek common ground

Ethnic groups under the umbrella of the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) launched their third annual conference in Yangon yesterday with the aim of focusing on the peace process and agreeing on a future political dialogue with the government.

Political parties, civil society organisations and representatives from invited armed groups are also attending the three-day conference, although no one from the National League for Democracy showed up at the opening speeches. Plans for the November elections and constitutional change are also on the agenda.

U Aye Thar Aung, a member of the UNA and a senior official of the Rakhine National Party, said Myanmar’s various ethnic groups and their different alliances needed to produce a common framework for the political dialogue envisaged as the next stage of a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

“It is important for us to unify all these frameworks and produce a common one,” he said in his opening speech.

Different frameworks for political dialogue have been drafted by the UNA representing 12 ethnic parties, and also by the United Nationalities Federal Council, which represents 11 armed groups. A third has been written by 56 political parties led by the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation, an alliance of ethnic parties.

“Previously we had set some plans. But we could not execute them, like we were not able to amend the constitution,” U Aye Thar Aung said of failed efforts to decentralise the country’s power structure by changing the 2008 constitution crafted by the military. He urged the conference to come up with a “realistic” plan.

“The parliamentary attempt failed,” said U David Hla Myint of the United National Democratic Organisation, speaking of the military’s rejection of initiatives in parliament to amend the constitution. “We have to keep discussing this issue,” he said.

External experts yesterday also shared their views on land issues, natural resources, taxation and the economy. More than 30 organisations participated, including the New Mon State Party, the Kayan New Land Party and the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front.