Hundreds of people gathered at the Maha Bandoola Park in downtown Rangoon on Sunday in a massive rally to voice support for the upcoming Union Peace Conference, or 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC), as Aung San Suu Kyi has dubbed it.
The event was joined by the city’s mayor, the speaker of the Rangoon regional parliament, regional cabinet members and MPs, as well as activists and celebrities.
Similar rallies took place in Mon State capital Moulmein and central Burma’s Sagaing Division at the weekend.
And in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday, expatriates of the Chin, Zomi, Mon, Shan, Karenni and Karen communities held an event to welcome the 21CPC, which is scheduled to open in Naypyidaw on Wednesday.
Organisers of the Melbourne event said supporters wanted to show their appreciation for a combined effort between the government, the Burmese military, and the ethnic groups in working together to bring about peace and federalism.
More than 700 representatives from the government, parliament, military, ethnic groups and civil society are expected to attend the 21CPC, which has a stated objective of etching out a framework for future political dialogue aimed at reaching a peace settlement and national reconciliation.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is slated to give the opening address in the Burmese capital on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, no confirmation has been given that the three excluded ethnic armed groups from previous peace talks – the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) – will be invited to the conference, even at this late stage.
According to the Mon News Agency on Monday, the three militias claimed they had not received any invitation as of 26 August.
However, the Kachin Independence Organisation has confirmed it will join the 21CPC talks, said Myanmar Times, citing a statement by KIO leader Gen. Gun Maw on Saturday.