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The eight armed groups that are signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) are holding a meeting in Chiang Mai on 18-20 July in preparation for a landmark summit in Kachin State’s Mai Ja Yang at the end of the month.
Pado Kwe Htoo Win, the general-secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), the largest of the ethnic militias which signed the NCA, said, “The agenda at this meeting will be to discuss preparations for the 21st Century Panglong Conference, including the upcoming meeting in Mai Ja Yang, and our future steps based on briefing reports.”
The so-called 21st Century Panglong Conference, or 21CPC, was a name coined by Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to announce her new government’s participation in a peace process that was initiated under the previous military-led government. It will ultimately include a wide range of players from the government, the military, and ethnic groups, both signatory and non-signatory to the ceasefire accord.
The eight NCA signatory groups are: All Burma Students’ Democratic Front; Arakan Liberation Party; Chin National Front; Democratic Karen Benevolent Army; Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council; Karen National Union; Pa-O National Liberation Organisation; and Shan State Army-South.
In his opening speech at today’s event, KNU Chairman Gen. Mutu Say Poe said that all the ethnic armed groups share one vision – building a federal union that can guarantee genuine peace.
“Just as we strived under the previous government to reach our goal, we must continue efforts under the new government,” he said. “Our political ambitions and demands are to find a political situation that corresponds to the current situation of the country – one which is acceptable to all parties.”
Meanwhile, a delegation of non-signatory ethnic militias met with Suu Kyi, in her capacity as chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre, in Rangoon on Sunday to discuss their participation in the upcoming political dialogue.
At a press conference on Monday morning, Khu Oo Reh, the general secretary of the United Nationalities Federal Council, said, “We must continue negotiations. We are determined to keep up our efforts for peace, and to overcome all challenges and issues via peaceful negotiations.
“We wish to end the armed conflict – people have already suffered too much.”