Myanmar has vast, well-equipped ethnic armies that distrust the central government. Source: YouTube
Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi claims that all of the country’s 22 armed ethnic groups will be invited to participate in her “Panglong Peace Conference”.
Suu Kyi urged government peace representatives to make an effort to “get along” with all the armed rebels, according to her Facebook page.
This month Suu Kyi is due to meet the groups that did not sign the ceasefire to get their input for the peace conference.
Suu Kyi’s could be accused of over-simplifying the process of ending numerous decades-long civil wars and resettling thousands of refugees with numerous heavily armed, foreign-backed armies with competing claims. Complicating the issue is the significant fact that she does not control her own armed forces, as the military retains full control of the ministries of defence and border security, meaning her promises of peace are already being contradicted by the military’s actions in the field.
A delegation led by military-appointed MP Thein Zaw will soon go to Minela near the Chinese border for talks with three groups that did not sign October’s peace deal, the Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, to get them on board for her “Panglong peace conference”, according to Zaw Htay, spokesman for Suu Kyi.
He said Suu Kyi had requested that the rules for those who can attend the peace conference be changed so that the political parties that did not win a seat in last November’s general election could attend.
With more than 70 parties that contested the election potentially looking to take part, added to the numerous armed groups and government representatives, not least the military, it will make for an interesting challenge at the conference organisers just allowing everyone to speak.
Suu Kyi has made peace and national reconciliation a priority of her government.
Her father, General Aung San, arranged the first Panglong Conference in 1947 to grant autonomy to the Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minorities before Burma gained independence from British colonial rule.
But his assassination in July 1947 prevented the agreements made during the conference from being introduced and many ethnic groups took up arms against the Rangoon authorities in wars that continued for decades.
Eight rebel armies signed the nationwide peace agreement with the government last October.
Meanwhile, this week a court in Magway Region charged a planning official from Salin over Facebook posts that referred to Suu Kyi with a racial slur used by the former junta to draw attention to her marriage to a British academic.
The civil servant called Suu Kyi the wife of a “kalar”, a derogatory term for foreigners.
Myanmar’s junta attempted to exploit Suu Kyi’s marriage to Michael Aris, who died in 1999, to suggest she had limited ties to the country of her birth. A member of Magway’s National League for Democracy brought the charge.
“He insulted the country’s leader… if we did not file a lawsuit, public anger would be bigger,” said Kan Oo, an NLD lower house MP from Salin.