Govt keeping ‘door wide open’ for ethnic groups at peace talks

Govt keeping ‘door wide open’ for ethnic groups at peace talks

According to President’s Office spokesman Zaw Htay, the Burmese government has invited all ethnic armed groups to the upcoming peace talks, whether or not they are signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), and is also prepared to entertain the notion of allowing the three militias previously left out of negotiations – the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Kokang-based Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) – to attend.

Speaking to reporters in Naypyidaw after Tuesday’s Union Peace Discussion Joint Committee (UPDJC) meeting, Zaw Htay said, “According to the agenda set at the meeting, both NCA signatories and non-signatory groups will be treated equally, and invited to the event [21st Century Panglong Conference].

“This decision – to invite the NCA non-signatories – is an indication that the government is keeping the door wide open for everyone.”

Tuesday’s UPDJC meeting, chaired by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, was held to fix the agenda for an upcoming round of peace talks that has been dubbed the 21st Century Panglong Conference, or 21CPC. The conference is slated to begin on 31 August in the Burmese capital, where no less than 700 delegates will gather, representing the government, the military, the ethnic groups, and other parties.

The spokesperson for the President’s Office confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that the agenda has been agreed for the upcoming talks.

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The UPDJC also approved plans for a political dialogue process that will be inclusive of members of the Burmese public, political party representatives, and civil society organisations, he said.

Hla Maung Shwe, secretary of the 21CPC Preparatory Sub-Committee, said the forum on 31 August will mark the beginning of an all-inclusive effort to bring peace to the country.

Speaking at the UPDJC meeting, Committee Chairperson Suu Kyi said the 21CPC is aimed at establishing “mutual ground” between the various ethnic groups, to “straighten out disagreements”, and “to build a genuine federal union of Burma”.

Tuesday’s UPDJC meeting was attended by more than 40 delegates, including representatives of the government, the ethnic armed groups, and several political parties.

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