Friday, August 18, 2017

Govt, ethnic groups sign 33 agreements at the end of second Panglong

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The government and ethnic armed groups signed a total of 33 agreements at the conclusion of the 2nd round of the 21st century Panglong conference that is expected to move forward the peace talks aimed at ending decades-old pocket wars in the country.

Lt General Yar Pyae, vice chair of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), a tripartite body of government, political parties and ethnic armed groups that is authorized to hold political dialogues described the six-day peace talks as very productive.

“We are very pleased because we have never had results in previous talks. We have agreed on 37 points, which is a progress. It would need step-by-step and gradual development. Tatmadaw has already had the desire to achieve eternal peace, and negotiations should continue,” said he.

Secession, self-determination haunt second round of Panglong conference

Monday, 29 May 2017

The government and ethnic armed groups have failed to reach an agreement on the issues of secession and self-determination in the final day of the second round of the 21st-Century Panglong Conference.

But all the parties agreed to continue the discussion on the issues of non-secession and self-determination during the next round of talks, which has yet to be scheduled

The second round of 21st-Century Panglong Conference is concluding today. Government, political parties and eight signatory groups discussed on the 41 points prepared in advance by the Union Political Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC).

Wa-led northern groups to meet with State Counsellor today

Friday, 26 May 2017

State’s Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has accepted the request of Wa-led groups from northern Myanmar to meet today afternoon in Nay Pyi Taw on the sideline of the ongoing Union Peace Conference, government and ethnic leaders confirmed.

The meeting was set during a two-hour closed door meeting between members of the government’s Peace Commission and delegates of the Wa-led groups, officially named “ Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee “ [FPNCC],on May 25 at Horizon Lake View Hotel where FPNCC members are billeted .

Dr Tin Myo Win, head of the Peace Commission, did not give details about his meeting with the FPNCC delegates.

“I don’t give any comment [about the meeting ] because it’s very sensitive and important,” said Dr TinMyo Win.

He said he thanked FPNCC for attending the ongoing second round of 21stPanglong Conference and also thanked China in helping convince the FPNCC to attend the conference.

Heated debate on ‘secession’ on second day of Panglong

Friday, 26 May 2017

A Debate about the appropriateness of including the phrase “non-secession from the union” as part of the basic principle of a peace agreement dominated the second day of the 21st-century Panglong, said representatives from the forum.

On the second day of the second round of the 21st-Century Panglong conference held yesterday in Nay Pyi Taw, participants of nearly 700 were divided into five sectors – politics, security, economy, social and land and environment, where they discussed the 41 points prepared in advance by the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) before the conference.

The UPDJC is a tripartite committee consisting of the government (including the Tatmadaw), eight signatory armed ethnic groups and political parties’ representatives authorised to draft political dialogue frameworks and hold political dialogues at the national and union level.

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), after a morning tea-break yesterday released a statement, expressed their disappointment with the usage of the phrase “non-secession”.

State Counsellor upbeat over prospects of Panglong conference

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The five-day talks was attended not only by the eight signatory groups to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), but also by three ethnic armed groups in the northern part of Myanmar who have not yet signed the ceasefire pact.

Unlike the first round of Union Peace Conference, held in August of 2016 and ended with no concrete results, the current peace talks is expected to be productive as there would be debates, discussion and consensus-taking among the parties.

Participants will also exchange their points of view on four social issues and six land and environmental issue, as well as 21 political problems and 10 economic issues, including the proposal that may allow states and regions to draw their own constitutions,’ regarded as self-determination.

Diverting from NCA means unwillingness for peace

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Diverting from the initiatives spelt out in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) means there is no willingness for establishing peace, democracy and a federal system in the Union, according to Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

“In implementing peace making processes, the political roadmap described in the NCA is an exit for the Union to be exactly followed by all those involved. The remaining peace-making processes can be done trustfully only when the ongoing armed conflicts come to an end. In practice, the current peace-making processes go beyond the basic principles of the NCA and the roadmap,” said the senior general at the opening ceremony of the second session of the Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said that the discussions, activities and basic concepts of some ethnic groups, that are in the 72 papers submitted at the previous conference, went far beyond the federal system, that was envisaged.

Three more rebel groups to join Union Peace Conference

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The three excluded groups of Kokang, Ta’ang and Arakan armed ethnic groups are attending the Union Peace Conference, for the first time, as special guests, government peace negotiators said.

But several other rebel groups in southern part of Myanmar under the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) have decided not to join the conference, they added.

Despite ongoing fighting in northern part of Shan state, the second session of 21st century Panglong conference would see for the first time, representatives from Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA – Kokang group), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA), attending the peace talks.

Officials from government’s peace negotiation body have confirmed yesterday that the groups together with KIA, Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), United Wa State Army, National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) are already in Nay Pyi Taw to attend the union peace conference.

Myanmar’s peace process and China’s factor

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

From now on, China’s role, real or imagined, will be extremely pivotal to the progress of the National League of Democracy-led government’s efforts to build peace and stability for Myanmar’s 54 million people.

After several postponements of the Union Peace Conference – the 21st Century Panglong (second session) since February, the meeting scheduled for May 24-29 have generated a high level of expectations. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will need the help of all stakeholders, both at home and abroad to make a progress. Obviously, among them, China is at the top.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said all the right words to her during their bilateral meeting in Beijing, pledging his country’s help on China-Myanmar border security and stability. “China is willing to continue to provide necessary assistance for Myanmar’s internal peace process,” Xi said confidently. It should surprise nobody that Daw Suu chose to end her week-long visit to China with a stopover in Yunnan to ensure that the provincial top echelon is on the same page as in Beijing.

21st Century Panglong and new challenges

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The second union peace conference is coming soon. There have been many changes in a period between the first and second conferences. However, these are not positive changes leading to the right direction; they are worrisome changes.

One major change is the emergence of a new peace pathway directed by the Wa ethnic group. In last February, the Wa group discussed with the armed ethnic groups who had not signed NCA in Pangsang. During the discussion, the Wa ethnic armed group declared that they do not trust the peace pathway proposed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and advised the team led by Wa group to discuss directly with the government.

The Wa group openly rejected Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s pathway to peace via NCA, and preferred to hold new ceasefires discussions. The Wa asked to disregard NCA agreement, and demanded new ceasefire and political discussions. The movement will be led by the Wa group, and the armed ethnic groups from the north side of Myanmar support the idea.

Doubts over regional and state constitutional drafting

Monday, 22 May 2017

The recent meeting of the tripartite Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) held in Nay Pyi Taw produced a great result as it agreed to include in the agenda of upcoming second round of the 21st Century Panglong Conference a policy proposal that could allow regions and states to draft their own constitutions.

The unprecedented agreement could give regions and states a chance to draw their own charters, which fully reflect the federalism as well as a guarantee for self-determination that ethnic people have constantly demanded. This is the first-ever agreement reached between the government and ethnic armed organizations so that all the attendees of UPDJC meeting described it as a “historic agreement”.

“These are basic federal principles. We have never had such an agreement before,” said U Zaw Htay, Director General of the State Counsellor’s Office.

Why the five ethnic armed organisations should sign NCA

Friday, 19 May 2017

The meeting between the government and five non-signatory ethnic armed groups in Chiang Mai, Thailand on April 28 was a big disappointment after it failed to secure promises from the EAOs that they would sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

Such a let-down is common in Myanmar peace negotiations. There will be many more disappointments and uncertainties ahead but it should not deter the government negotiators in pursuing a more inclusive ceasefire.

Critically, it is not a lost cause. There is still time. Both sides can iron out their differences in the next meeting scheduled in Yangon before the next Union Peace Conference 21st Century Panglong (UPC) is held on May 24.

Welcome to The Myanmar Times coverage of the Union Peace Conference, the cornerstone effort of the new National League for Democracy government-led peace process. Dubbed the '21st Century Panglong Conference' in reference to the landmark 1947 summit led by independence hero Bogyoke Aung San, the Union Peace Conference will be held in Nay Pyi Taw over 4 days, beginning August 31, and will bring together armed ethnic groups, political parties, military officials, and government representatives.

The NLD campaigned heavily on the importance of "national reconciliation" and has identified the peace process as bedrock effort of its opening agenda, but the new government has also indicated that it sees the conference as only a starting point in an ongoing political dialogue with Myanmar's many ethnic and military players.

Scroll below to see our live coverage, or click here to read background and analysis.

You can also stream the opening of today's Panglong conference on MRTV here!

Not without wrinkles, peace conference lauded for taking landmark ‘first steps’ 
Monday, 5 September

Criticism, disputes or bumps along the road are no cause for concern; the only thing to fear is not acknowledging the problem at all, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said at the close of a landmark peace summit this weekend (see closing remarks, below).

Regardless of the series of mishaps over the four-day conference, the state counsellor nevertheless heralded the event as a successful step toward resolving the country’s entrenched armed conflicts.

That concludes our coverage of the 4-day opening Union Peace Conference in August-September, 2016. We'll be back here when the delegates reconvene, in 6-months time. Until then, you can read about developments in political dialogue in the pages of our News section, or with us on Facebook. Thanks for following with us!

Alliance wants creation of committee to push for women in peace process
Monday, 5 September

The Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process (AGIPP) is demanding the formation of a committee to monitor gender equality and women’s participation in the peace process, after calls for implementation of a minimum 30 percent quota for female participants were not heeded for last week’s 21st-century Panglong Conference. The four-day conference saw an overwhelmingly male roster of attendees and speakers.

State Counsellor urges unity in Panglong closing remarks

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged Union Peace Conference participants not to dwell on the past, but to consider the future of the Union of Myanmar in her closing remarks at the Panglong Conference.

"When I looked at the presentation of groups over the past four days, I know who  is concentrated on things past, and who is focused on how to build our future state. But there is time yet for those stuck on the past to look forward to the future. It is very crucial that commit to bravely moving forward, not for the sake of an individual or an ethnic group, but for the sake of the entire Union," Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, referring to the papers presented over the course of the four-day conference this week.

Speaking of criticisms of the conference organisation, she added, "But we don't need to  fear having problems or set-backs - the threat is of pretending we do not have any problems. The most important thing is the ability to bravely move ahead, and work together on finding solutions," she said.

She echoed a vow repeated throughout the 4-day conference that the NLD government is committed to achieving lasting peace in Myanmar as their top priority.

Panglong Conference day 4 agenda:

Lieutenant General Ya Pyae - Tatmadaw
Dr. Tin Myo Win - Government
Daw Shilar Nan Taung - Parliament 
Khum Myint Tun - EAO
U Myint Soe - USDP 

Speakers: U Aung Kyi - Government, U Ngan Sak - Chin Democracy League Party, Colonel Kyaw Soe Oo - Tatmadaw, U Thein Swe - Parliament, U Aye Min - Dawei National PartyColonel Zaw Win Tun - Tatmadaw U, U Zaw Htay - Participant, Khum Soe Myint - Pa-oh National Party, Colonel Nay Linn Tun - Tatmadaw, U Khet Htein Nan - Ethnic representative

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will deliver closing remarks of the conference, which will close the first session of the Union Peace Conference. Government organizers hope to reconvene the conference in six-months.

The Elders welcome Panglong Peace Conference

The Elders, an independent association of human rights advocates, released a statement congratulating on the Union Peace Conference, calling the summit "Myanmar’s best chance to date to bring a definitive end to the many violent conflicts that have plagued its ethnic minority regions". Gro Harlem Brundtland, deputy Chair of The Elders who visited Myanmar in 2014, wrote:

“The basic rights of all Myanmar’s people regardless of race, religion or citizenship should be a guiding principle as the country charts its way to a fully democratic and peaceful future. We hope that all parties to the Union Peace Conference hold firm to this principle and engage in its proceedings in good faith.”

The Elders also welcomed the appointment of Kofi Annan, who is also a member of The Elders, as the chairman of an advisory commission on Rakhine State. Read the full press release here.

Meanwhile, organisers announced that tomorrow would be the last full day on the Panglong Conference agenda. Ten speakers will present papers to the conference, after which they will have the opportunity to visit parliament before returning home. They are referring to the end of hte conference as a "break", and there is no closing ceremony planned, as government organisers hope to reconvene the conference to resume negotiations after a six-month period.

Govt submits official apology to UWSA 
Friday, 2 September

Government officials submitted an official apology to United Wa State Army leader U Pauk U Chan after the UWSA delegation angrily withdrew from the Panglong Conference yesterday morning over a perceived slight.

Panglong Conference Day 3 Agenda:

Afternoon session
U Thu Wai – Political party
Dr Win Myat Aye – Government
Lieutenant –general Tin Maung Win – Tatmadaw
Brigadier general Baung Khe – EAO
U In Htu Khum Naw Seng – Parliament

Speakers: Colonel Htak Tin Cho – Tatmadaw, U Ko Ko Hlaing – Participant, U Nyi Nat – Wa National Unity Party, U Naing Win Kyi- Ethnic representative, Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo - Participant, Naing Chan Twe – All Mon Region Democracy Party, U Thar Hla Htun – Ethnic representative, Lwe Aye Nan - Participant, Sai Bo Aung – SNDP, Naing Soe Aung - Participant, Dr K Ywal Gyar – Unity and Democarcy Party, U Than Zaw Oo – Ethnic representative, U Mar Cos – Akha National Development Party, U Si Si Naw Jar – Kachin National Congress Party

Ten point structure for reorganisation of federal Union armed forces, as proposed by the UNFC on Day 3 of the Panglong Conference: 

  1. All armed forces must be under the control of civilian administration
  2. The Union army [also called Federal army] must be under the administration of defense ministry, and defense minister must be a civilian. 
  3. The military commander-in-chief, deputy commander-in-chief and chiefs of army, navy and air force branches must be representative of different ethnic minorities.
  4. Police and security forces must be under the control of ministry of home affairs.
  5. There must be a only one Union army in the country.
  6. A military leadership council must be formed with equal representatives of the states in order manage the Union army.
  7. All levels of the Union army must be formed with equal ethnic representation from the states.
  8. The total size of the Union army and state security forces must not exceed 0.5 percent of the total population of the Union.
  9. All states have the right to form a security force, and security forces must be under the control of state government. Union government has the right to enlist the use of state security forces in the event of a state of emergency.
  10. The government must establish a Union-wide police force as well as separate state police forces.

Read more: Home Affairs Ministry invites civilian control over departments

Day 2 Analysis: Panglong fractures with UWSA delegation’s indignant exit 
Friday, 2 September

The second day of the 21st-century Panglong Conference was overshadowed by an early walkout of the country’s most powerful ethnic armed group. Yesterday’s miscommunication exacerbated already primed tensions following from an earlier bungling of ethnic representatives' namecards.

Panglong Conference Day 3 Agenda: 

9:00am-12:00pm session
U Thu Wai – Political party
Dr Win Myat Aye – Government
Lieutenant –general Tin Maung Win – Tatmadaw
Brigadier general Baung Khe – EAO
U In Htu Khum Naw Seng – Parliament

Speakers: Colonel Min Oo – Tatmadaw, Naing Han Thar- NMSP, U Tun Naing- Kokant Democracy and Unity Party, Lieutenant colonel Zaw Oo- Tatmadaw, Khu Oo Rah – KNPP, U Sai Htay Aung – Tai Leng National Development (Red Shan Party), Colonel Zaw Win Myint – Tatmadaw, Lieutenant colonel Sin War – KIO

Peace process requires participation of young people: state counsellor 
Friday, 2 September

Among the points that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made during her speech at the opening of the Union Peace Conference on August 31 was the important role that young people must play in the peace process. Given these concerns, it struck some observers as odd that civil society organisations – which are well positioned to express the concerns of young people at the grassroots level – were not invited to the table at the conference.

"I feel like we're having a curry without any salt, as we're only reading papers ... and not having a discussion," said U Naing Lae Ta Ma of the Mon National Party earlier today during his presentation of a paper, referring to a disappointing lack of substantive debate at the Panglong Conference.

UWSA pull out of Panglong 
Thursday, 1 September

Just one day into the peace conference and Myanmar’s biggest armed ethnic group, the powerful United Wa State Army, has pulled out after yet another organisational mishap. The four UWSA delegates cited “inequality” as their reason for withdrawing from the new government’s first major bid to end decades of armed struggle.

Panglong Conference Day 2 Agenda:

9:00 to 12:00 session
Phdoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win – KNU
U Tint Swe – President Office
U Khun Maung Thaung – Parliament
U Nyan Win – NLD

Speakers: U Kyaw Tint Swe – Government, Phdoh Saw Tar Do Hmu –KNU, U Win Htein – NLD, U La Jone Sat Mai- Parliament, Saw Kyaw Nyunt –KNU /KNLA (Peace Council), U Myint Soe – USDP, Colonel Tint Naing Aye – Tatmadaw, Dr Aung Maung – ANP, Dr Tin Myo Win – Government, Dr Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong – CNF, U Sai Tun Aye - SNLD, U Pyone Cho – Parliament, U Kyi Myint – NDAA

Afternoon session
U Saw Kwe Htoo Win- EAO
U Thein Swe – Government
U Khum Maung Thaung – Parliament
Major General Soe Naing Oo – Tatmadaw
U Nyan Win- NLD

Speakers: Colonel Thant Zaw – Tatmadaw, U Khun Myint Tun – PNLO, Dr Win Myat Aye – Government, Comrade Myint Hein – ABSDF, Pu Kyint Shin Htan – Zomi League for Democracy Party, Nant Than Than Lwin – Parliament, U Khing Tun Win – ALP, U Shwe Min – Lisu National Development Party, Colonel Soe Tint – Tatmadaw, Sai Ngin – RCSS, Dr Manan Tuja – Kachin State Democracy Party, U Naing Gyan Linn – Government, U Kyaw Hla –UWSA, U Yan Kyaw – Wa Democratic Party, U Min Oo – Parliament, Naing Law Ta Ma – Mon National Party, U Yaw Thet –Lahu National Development

Day 1 Analysis: Long day’s journey into peace begins at Panglong
Thursday, 1 September

Mired in discontent, the National League for Democracy’s bid to end decades of armed conflict launched yesterday sizzling with tension.

Negotiations between ethnic armed groups and the government over the staging of the 21st-century Panglong Conference were still on­going as of the morning the event was scheduled to start. The disappointment – and lack of finesse – with the way the government has managed pre-conference negotiations carried over into the first day of the 21st-century Panglong Conference.

Speech highlights from Panglong Conference opening ceremony
Thursday, 1 September

Miss yesterday's Panglong Conference opening ceremony speeches? We've got notes for you on the opening addresses by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Kachin Independence Organization Maj Gen N’ Ban La, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's address at the 21st-Century Panglong Conference in Nay Pyi Taw [as delivered - download a transcript in Myanmar-language here]: 

I give you my full respect and greetings from the United Nations. It is a great honour for me as Secretary-General of the United Nations to address the great opening of the 21st Century Panglong Conference. Thank you for your invitation.

This is a historic occasion for the further democratization of this country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses delegates at the opening of the Panglong conference on August 31. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar TimesUN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses delegates at the opening of the Panglong conference on August 31. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar Times

The symbolism of this Conference is clear from its title, which recalls the spirit of the original Panglong Conference convened in 1947 by General Aung San, the Father of Modern Burma.

But today, we also look to the future.

This conference is bringing together Myanmar’s different ethnic groups in a joint commitment to a federal union based on equality, democracy and self-determination.

I congratulate all sides for the patience, endurance, determination and spirit of compromise you have demonstrated in support of national reconciliation.

There is a long road ahead, but the path is very promising.

This is the first time that such a peace process has been initiated in the seventy-year history of conflict and division between the Union Government and armed ethnic groups.

Today’s meeting marks a historic transition since former President U Thein Sein opened the doors to democratic reforms six years ago.

Around the world, we have seen the tragedies that can ensue when leaders deny the need for democratic change.

Myanmar shows what is possible, when leaders listen to their people’s genuine aspirations, genuine concerns of the people and genuine dreams of where this country should proceed.

The United Nations has been a steady partner in support of Myanmar’s reforms, in particular the national reconciliation process.

We will continue our efforts to smooth differences, lower tensions and move parties towards better understanding and dialogue in line with the goals and values of the United Nations Charter.

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The long civil war has cost numerous lives and robbed successive generations of their dignity, tranquility and normalcy. It is now clear that there can be no military solution to your differences.

I urge you to accept that no party involved in this reconciliation process can expect to achieve all its aims. Conversely, every side must win something if the process is to succeed.

This will require goodwill on all sides, and a recognition that success is in the vital interest of all the people of Myanmar, regardless of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or socio-economic status.

It is encouraging that the different ethnic armed organizations with divergent interests and aspirations came together to form a single team to negotiate the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last year.

This agreement was crucially important, and the new Government has undertaken efforts to make it more inclusive. The 21st Century Panglong Conference represents the result of those efforts.

I urge all of you, as you walk along this path with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to demonstrate the wisdom needed to address complex and unresolved issues, and to pave the way for a unified negotiation track that is inclusive of all interests and constituencies.

This will require sensitivity and flexibility, and respect for both signatories and non-signatories. You will need to be truly consultative if you are to reach sustainable solutions. In this connection, I urge you again to ensure that women make up at least 30 per cent of the representatives at all levels of dialogue.

Distinguished delegates,

Every transition [carries] risks.

But refusing to embark on transition may carry the greatest risk of all. We see tragic evidence of this around the world.

I urge you all to continue to face up to your responsibilities, particularly to the youth and children of Myanmar – the future of this wonderful country.

You owe it to them to work for a better tomorrow, in which they can fulfil their dreams and aspirations in peace and prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is my fifth visit to Myanmar as Secretary-General. From Cyclone Nargis in 2008 to the winds of change gripping the country today, I have worked to mobilize the full support of the United Nations system for Myanmar.

In my meetings with the authorities and with representatives of the wonderfully diverse people of this country, I have always found inspiration in your determination to advance towards reform, peace and stability.

The United Nations will remain your respectful partner as this process deepens.

I wish you every success.

Let’s work together for peace.

Thank you.

KIO leader requests peace conference not deviate from ‘Panglong legacy’
Lun Min Mang

The peace talks must follow in line with the legacy of the historic 1947 Panglong Agreement, the leader of the Kachin Independence Organisation said in his speech today.

“The reason why we, the non-Bamar ethnic people, are staging armed revolution is because of the loss of the Panglong Agreement’s guarantees for democracy, national equality and self-determination of ethnic people,” said General N Ban La, head of the United Nationalities Federal Council and vice chair of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

The presence of the KIO at the 21st-century Panglong Conference, he said, is meant to be a show of support for the National League for Democracy-backed government following the former opposition party’s sweeping election victory last year.

“This is the very first step of the [new administration’s] long-term peace negotiations that will solve decades-long conflicts,” he said.

He added that the federal Union that the armed ethnic organisations are demanding is not a request to secede from the Union, but is call for equality for the ethnic nationalities based on the “Union spirit”.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urges relief for IDPs, peace for future generations
Lun Min Mang

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged attendees at the Union Peace Conference to strive for peace for the sake of Myanmar’s displaced peoples as well as its future generations at at the conference opening this morning.

 State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivers her opening address at the Panglong peace conference in Nay Pyi Taw today. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar Times State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivers her opening address at the Panglong peace conference in Nay Pyi Taw today. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar Times

In her opening remarks, the state counsellor declared that the country’s ongoing armed conflicts could be solved by “mutual understanding and cooperation” among different parties.

She also invoked Myanmar’s independence heroes on the , saying “We should work to achieve peace, keeping in mind the sacrifices of our founding fathers and not forgetting those who suffer from ongoing conflicts, to leave a legacy that will testify to our mercy for future generations.”

“The Panglong spirit by which we gained our independence is still needed today to achieve lasting internal peace,” she said

The state counsellor congratulated former president U Thein Sein for initiating the peace process under the USDP-led administration. President U Thein Sein invited armed ethnic organizations to negotiate with the government in 2013, culminating in the signing of a “nationwide” ceasefire agreement in October, 2015. The pact was widely criticized when only eight groups resolved to sign it, most of them no longer engaged in ongoing hostilities with the government.

Though newly-elected USDP chairperson U Than Htay attended thepeace conference, U Thein Sein was not seen in the event this morning. U Than Htay was appointed in a surprise leadership re-shuffle at the USDP party conference earlier this month.

The state counselor emphasised in her speech that “more trust has been built” between Myanmar’s political stakeholders at conference if peace talks.

“Across the country, people watch with fearful eyes every time there is a peace summit,” she said. “We should not forget that they are suffering.”

According to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 100,000 people remain displaced by fighting in Kachin and northern Shan States. Some groups in displaced persons camps in Kachin State have been unable to return to their homes for five years.

The state counselor also congratulated youth groups who volunteered to staff welcoming events for the conference.

“We cannot achieve peace without the participation and investment of every group across the country,” she said.

Read the state counsellor's full speech here.

Commander-in-Chief warns against “ethnocentric” dialogue at Panglong
Lun Min Mang

In his opening remarks at a conference where ethnic armed groups are pushing for greater autonomy, the Tatmadaw chief stressed the need for “national unification”, and warned away from an “ethnocentric” dialogue.

Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing delivers his opening address at the Panglong conference in Nay Pyi Taw today. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar TimesMyanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing delivers his opening address at the Panglong conference in Nay Pyi Taw today. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar Times

Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the Tatmadaw has contributed to the nation-building process “through the ages” and will continue to its utmost ability to achieve peace.

“We and our brothers - the armed ethnic organisations - are the ones suffering the most from the internal conflicts. The Tatamdaw will continue to support the peace process based on the three national causes in recognition of peace and stability, national reconciliation and development,” he said.

He also pressed all participants to abide by the controversial six “principles for peace”, as outlined for the ethnic armed groups at the beginning of President U Thein’s Sein’s peace process five years ago.

The principles, which have been jettisoned by the ethnic armed group leaders, and criticised by analysts as a instituting more of a stumbling block to cooperation than a roadmap to peace, include the demand that ethnic parties and their armed wings adhere to the 2008 junta-drafted constitution. The charter preserves key political roles for the Tatmadaw, including a 25 percent bloc of parliament and an effective veto over future constitutional amendments.

“The Tatmadaw’s six peace principles are based on our experience through the years. We should abide by these principles. Different organisations have their own perspectives and policies. But their expectations and the reality will not be the same,” the commander-in-chief said.

He encouraged participants to consider what they are able to contribute to the peace process instead of focusing on what they desire from it. He added that all groups should pursue their aims through democratic channels such as parliament. 

“In this time of democracy we should not forget that we cannot demand what we want through bearing arms and adhering to the principle of armed struggle. Learning from other countries’ experiences, we must work to build our nation collaboratively to the best of our abilities,” he said. 

Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing also warned against prolonging the peace process, which he said would create further “frictions”.

“We must not lose the trust that has already been built and face the possibility of outside intervention,” he said.

“We should have a dialogue for peace without being too ethnocentric,” he added.

Read a full copy of the Commander-in-Chief's speech here (English).

The Embassy of the United States also released the following statement this morning on the kick-off of the Panglong Conference:

"The United States welcomes the opening ceremony on August 31 of the “Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong” and commends all participants for their willingness to engage in an inclusive dialogue for national reconciliation and unity."

Read the entire statement here, or in Myanmar-language here.

Analysis: As the Panglong Conference begins, where are the women?
Wednesday, 31 August

While today’s 21st-century Panglong Conference will be recorded on mobile phones and instantly uploaded, attitudes toward gender equality have not advanced so rapidly, and only a tiny number of those delegates involved in the negotiations are women. Peace experts and rights campaigners have repeatedly warned of the risks of excluding women from the talks – warnings which have been ignored by the government, the Myanmar military and the ethnic armed groups.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon calls for ‘strengthened’ peace process
Wednesday, 31 August

The UN secretary general stuck to a positive tone at a tight-lipped press briefing yesterday following his meeting with the state counsellor in Nay Pyi Taw. “The steps you have taken toward peace and national reconciliation will need to be further strengthened, broadened and consolidated. This is the real expectation of the international community,” he said.

Row stoked by omission of rank from name cards
Wednesday, 31 August

Controversy swirled over the printing of name cards for attendees of a preparatory committee meeting ahead of the 21st-century Pang­long Conference, as leaders of ethnic armed groups were not listed along with their military rank, in contrast to their Tatmadaw counterparts.

Athong Makury, president of the Council of Naga Affairs, said the omission was “demeaning” to the leaders of ethnic armed groups. “So sad to see this,” he added. “If this is the type of ‘Panglong Spirit’ the military subscribes to, it is no way to reach a place of peace.”

Protests and fresh clashes loom over Panglong Conference
Wednesday, 31 August

Fresh fighting, protests against civilian casualties and a parliamentary spat over federalism have clouded the government’s major peace campaign kicking off in Nay Pyi Taw today, with some warning the renewed offensives could thwart progress.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon held a brief opening press conference ahead of the formal opening of the peace summit tomorrow:

United Nations Information Centre Yangon Facebook

"How many years will we have to wait if we can’t achieve success this time? I would like you to consider how much the country hurt during the time we have been waiting for peace. I’d like you to consider how much our country lost out in development."
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor and head of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, at an August 24 preparatory meeting

"We strongly support the peace process, and see the Union Peace Conference - the 21st-century Panglong - as a very important and positive step forward. We recognise that there is still much work to do, and many challenges to overcome, but we applaud the willingness of all of the participants to come together to try to find a way forward together."
Scot Marciel, US ambassador to Myanmar

Read more: thoughts from politicians, pundits, and diplomats on the Union Peace Conference here.

Analysis: The high stakes and lofty goals of the Panglong Conference
Tuesday, 30 August

The five-day Panglong Conference kicks off tomorrow in Nay Pyi Taw. The event is the National League for Democracy’s inaugural bid at national reconciliation – a point it has called a priority since taking office in April – and both hopes and tensions are running high in the lead-up.

Opinion: Will Panglong II end the ethnic conflict?
Tuesday, 30 August

Newly democratic Myanmar is all set to launch its 21st-century Panglong Conference on August 31. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has stressed that her government is keen to make it as inclusive as possible.

From Panglong I to Panglong II: a timeline
Wednesday, 30 August

Tomorrow, the National League for Democracy-led government kicks off its long-awaited peace conference, called the "21st century Panglong Conference". Ei Ei Toe Lwin and Andrew Kaspar trace the steps between the last Panglong summit of February 1947 to now.

Plus: Nyan Lynn Aung on the promises kept – and lost – since the landmark 1947 peace talks in "In search of the promise of Panglong".

No remarks from UNFC at Panglong
Wednesday, 30 August

The United Nationalities Federal Council – an alliance of seven ethnic armed groups that did not sign last year’s nationwide ceasefire agreement – will not be allowed deliver opening remarks at the Panglong Conference which starts tomorrow in Nay Pyi Taw, the government has announced.

MPs demonstrate support for historic peace gathering
Wednesday, 30 August

Yangon Region’s parliament focused its attention yesterday on a show of support for the upcoming Panglong Conference. The three-hour long event was attended by MPs, officials from the National League for Democracy regional office and civil society groups.

What are your expectations for this second Panglong conference?
Wednesday, 30 August

"Peace means solving the armed forces’ conflicts." – U Aung Kyi, head of government peace advisory think tank

We ask leading diplomats, pundits, politicians and peace negotiations – as well as a state counsellor – about their expectations for the upcoming Panglong Conference, which begins tomorrow.

KIO acknowledges participation in Panglong Conference
Monday, 29 August

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 and signed by General Gun Maw, deputy commander-in-chief of the Kachin Independence Army – the armed wing of the KIO. The statement clarified 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.

Yangon, Mogok rally in support of Panglong
Monday, 29 August

Crowds gathered in Yangon and Mogok yesterday to demonstrate public support for the 21st-century Panglong Conference, slated for later this week. “I want to live in peace. I have suffered from the fighting. That’s why I participated in the support event,” said Li Tha Min, a Lisu national.

UN chief calls interfaith meeting on peace conference sidelines
Monday, 29 August

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited religious leaders to an interfaith meeting in Nay Pyi Taw later this week. Leaders of six different religions, including Baha’i and Jewish representatives as well as Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist delegates, have been invited to attend the interfaith discussion.

UNFC commits to Panglong Conference
Friday, 26 August

General Sai Htoo, a senior member of the Shan State Progressive Party, which is a member of the ethnic armed alliance representing seven groups at the Panglong Conference, confirmed that members of the United Nationalities Federal Council would attend the 21st-century Panglong Conference.

CSOs pine for seat at table Friday, 26 August

As preparations continue for the 21st-century Panglong Conference next week, some members of civil society organisations complain that they have been left on the outside looking in.

Security questions linger ahead of peace summit Friday, 26 August

With less than one week to go until ethnic armed groups from around the country descend on the capital for the 21st-century Panglong Conference, Nay Pyi Taw police say they intend to request that attendees not bring weapons with them.

Fighting intensifies in Kachin as peace conference approaches Thursday, 25 August

Intense fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) continues with just one week before the start of the 21st-century Panglong Conference, where the new government hopes of fostering peace between the country’s armed ethnic groups.

UN chief to attend 21st-century Panglong Conference
Wednesday, 24 August

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will attend the opening ceremony of the 21st-century Panglong Conference on August 31, according to U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office.

UN chief to attend 21st-century Panglong Conference
Tuesday, 23 August

Two hurdles bedevilled a final consensus at the second-day meeting to review the framework for political dialogue – a core instrument for upcoming peace negotiations – involving representatives from the government, ethnic armed organisations and political parties.

Kayah political parties boycott Panglong Conference Monday, 22 August

Kayah State-based political parties have rejected an invitation to the 21st-century Panglong Conference, expressing dissatisfaction at the meagre representational quota they have been granted as unsuccessful contestants in last year’s election.

Still without invite, Kokang groups willing to attend Friday, 19 August

In a statement issued yesterday, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA) said they were pleased with the progress being made in the peace process so far, despite the fact they have not been extended an invitation.

Non-signatories granted eight seats on Panglong committee Wednesday, 17 August

Eight seats have been reserved for non-signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement on the joint preparatory committee for the upcoming 21st-century Panglong Conference, sources involved in the planning said yesterday after a meeting of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee.

UN chief to attend 21st-century Panglong Conference
Tuesday, 16 August

Speaking to The Myanmar Times following yesterday’s UPDJC meeting, U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, said after the Panglong Conference concludes, the government will convene similar dialogues every six months.

Pre-Panglong Mon meet-up aims to fortify ethnic solidarity Tuesday, 16 August

Mon nationalists will gather ahead of the 21st-century Panglong Conference late this month in a bid to shore up ethnic solidarity among civil society organisations, the armed group and the political parties that champion the minority’s interests.

Panglong billed as mere ‘opening ceremony’ for peace process restart
Monday, 15 August

Expectations for a major breakthrough at the upcoming 21st-century Panglong Conference are being scaled back, with one individual involved in the peace talks describing the event as merely “the grand opening ceremony” for the government’s efforts to end decades of civil war.

Powerful pair of armed groups confirm Panglong attendance, three still unsure Friday, 12 August

U Kyi Myint, spokesperson for the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), told The Myanmar Times yesterday that his organisation would attend both a meeting to review the framework for political dialogue and the 21st-century Panglong Conference. The United Wa State Army, Myanmar’s largest non-state armed group, will also attend the conference, he said.

Ta’ang to push for own state Friday, 12 August

After three days of meetings, the Ta’ang community agreed to issue a demand for the creation of its own state within the Union through a communal political bloc in the future.

Ethnic groups call for more time before Panglong amid deadlock
Thursday, 11 August

Ethnic armed groups are calling for more time before holding decisive peace negotiations in Panglong, referring to the preparations geared to meet the August deadline as rushed.

Representation of past conference prevails for 21st-century Panglong Thursday, 11 August

U Kyaw Tint Swe, minister for the Office of the State Counsellor, said about 700 representatives are expected to attend the so-called 21st-century Panglong Conference late this month, with a roster in structure cloning previous high-level peace talks convened in January under the previous government.

Date confirmed for Panglong Conference
Tuesday, 09 August

The linchpin of the government’s peace process will be convened on August 31, just in time to meet the promised schedule, the central preparation committee for the 21st-century Pang­long Conference revealed yesterday.

Govt to meet Kokang allies in Mongla today
Monday, 08 August

As a further step toward an inclusive peace process, government negotiators are today headed to Mongla to meet with three allied ethnic armed groups that have not signed a ceasefire.

Youth ethnic alliance emerges after summit
Wednesday, 03 August

A major new national ethnic youth alliance has been formed this week with its first vow being to ensure the inclusion of young people in the forthcoming 21st-century Panglong Conference – despite government chiefs’ attempts to dismiss them.

Youth ethnic alliance emerges after summit
Wednesday, 03 August

The government’s economic policy, released last week, could dovetail with its peace policy to help ensure resources are shared for the country as a whole, an economic analyst says. A statement released on July 29 said greater fairness in the allocation of resources among regions and states could help the country pursue national reconciliation.