Monday, July 24, 2017

KIO acknowledges participation in Panglong Conference

The Kachin Independence Organisation has agreed to participate in the 21st-century Panglong Conference which convenes in Nay Pyi Taw on August 31, according to a statement released by the group on August 27.

The statement, signed by General Gun Maw, deputy commander-in-chief of the Kachin Independence Army – the armed wing of the KIO – said the group’s participation in the conference comes in the spirit of cooperation with the United Nationalities Federal Council, and not because of pressure from the Myanmar military.

Members of the UNFC committed last week to attend the conference following a two-day “emergency meeting” in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The council is an alliance of seven ethnic armed groups, including the KIO.

The KIO statement said, “According to the UNFC’s decision, 24 representatives from the KIO will attend the 21st-century Panglong Conference which will be held on August 31 in Nay Pyi Taw. The representatives are now preparing to participate.”

Although no decisions will be made at the conference, the KIO will attend to be part of the beginning of the renewed peace process, the statement said.

Kuu Oo Yal, general secretary of the UNFC, said, “Leaders from each represented group will make a speech. That’s the format of the conference, which is just the opening ceremony of the peace process. We don’t expect many results – it’s just the starting point.”

The UNFC will have 158 representatives at the conference, he said.

Kachin humanitarian worker and recently released political prisoner Patrick Kum Ja Lee said the KIO statement indicated that the organisation was taking part in the conference because they are members of the UNFC.

“I think they also want the other ethnic armed organisations to participate, meaning the TNLA, the AA and the MNDAA,” he said, referring to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.

The three groups have been engaged in active hostilities with the Tatmadaw since a major flare-up in February 2015 in the Kokang self administered areas. Earlier this month they had expressed interest in participating in the Panglong Conference but have not been invited to attend.

Patrick Kum Ja Lee said he did not think the government was taking a “sincere” approach to the conference.

“The government has not yet revealed their intentions. [State Counsellor] Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the military are always talking about the Panglong spirit, but why don’t they abide by the original Panglong Agreement signed in 1947?” he said.

Meanwhile, fighting continues in areas of Kachin and northern Shan states between the Tatmadaw and some ethnic armed groups.

Ko Aung Myo San, a youth activist from Bhamaw/Bhamo, Kachin State, confirmed that fighting had occurred between the KIA and the Tatmadaw along the Myitkyina-Bhamo road in Waingmaw township as recently as August 27.

On August 25, two villagers were injured when a skirmish erupted between the Tatmadaw and the TNLA in Namkham township in northern Shan State, according a TNLA announcement.