Myanmar’s Armed Ethnic Groups to Hold Summit Ahead of Panglong Conference

Myanmar’s Armed Ethnic Groups to Hold Summit Ahead of Panglong Conference

Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups will hold a summit in Kachin state in the northernmost part of the country around mid-July to discuss their participation in Aung San Suu Kyi’s Panglong Peace Conference, an official from a coalition of ethnic armies said Monday

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a political alliance of armed ethnic groups that did not sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) last October with the previous government of Thein Sein, proposed the meeting, said UNFC secretary Tun Zaw.

The mission of the UNFC, which is headquartered in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is to create a federal system in Myanmar and peacefully end the ongoing conflicts.

The eight armed ethnic groups that signed the NCA have agreed to attend the summit, he said.

“If all ethnic armed groups have a chance to participate in the 21st-century Panglong Peace Conference, then we need to have our own opinions and stances to submit at the conference,” Tun Zaw said. “We want to hold a summit to hash out these opinions and stances.”

The UNFC will form a committee to organize the summit, he said.

“We will have a result after we hold this summit because we [the armed ethnic groups] don’t have many differences,” Tun Zaw said. “Expect some to sign the NCA, and some not to sign it.”

“Everything will be fine if the military and government have similar attitudes and perspectives with the goal of having reform, peace, and national reconciliation,” he said.

Ambitious plan

The conference, which is expected to be held in late July, is State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s ambitious plan to end multiple armed conflicts in Myanmar and bring peace to the Southeast Asian nation.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, arranged the first Panglong Conference in 1947 to grant autonomy to the Shan, Kachin, and Chin ethnic minorities when he was head of an interim government as Myanmar prepared to gain its independence from colonial rule by Britain.

But his assassination in July 1947 prevented the agreements made during the conference from reaching fruition, and many ethnic groups then took up arms against the central government in wars that ground on for decades.

Many of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic groups are showing their support for the upcoming Panglong Peace Conference.

More than 200 people participated in a march or Monday organized by The Red Shan Culture and Literature Society in the small town of Karmine in Hpakant township, Kachin state.

“We are doing this because we hope this upcoming peace conference is fair according to the law,” said march organizer Sai Pae Aung. “We didn’t have any hope for the previous peace talks.”

Former president Thein Sein’s administration had excluded certain armed ethnic groups from participating in previous peace talks because they were engaged in ongoing fighting with the government army.

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