Ethnic solidarity as Panghsang conference ends

Ethnic solidarity as Panghsang conference ends

In a show of ethnic unity, a joint statement from 12 armed groups demands an all-inclusive peace process, and calls on the Burmese government to cease its hostilities in ethnic areas.

Concluding the latest round of talks among ethnic leaders at the United Wa State Army (UWSA) headquarters of Panghsang in Shan State on Wednesday, the foremost members of 12 rebel groups released a statement expressing deep concern about the fighting between government forces and Kokang rebels in northern Shan State, and called on the Burmese army to end offensive campaigns against Kachin, Ta-ang and Kokang militias in northern Burma, and against the Arakan Liberation Army in the country’s west.

The statement also referred to a resolution by the 12 groups to resolve the country’s six-decade-long ethnic strife through political dialogue, and stressed the need for the inclusion of all ethnic groups in the ongoing peace process and any possible nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

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The delegates called on the United Nations and China to wield their influence on the Burmese government to push for an NCA signing, and an end to fighting in northern Burma. The statement also condemned the Burmese army for committing human rights violations in ethnic areas, and called its leaders prevent further violations.

The groups also reaffirmed their commitment to a genuine federal union, and expressed support for the demand by the UWSA for an autonomous Wa state.

The statement echoes the sentiments of Hkun Okker, a leading member of the ethnic bloc’s Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and United Nationalities Federal Council, made in a DVB interview during the Panghsang talks. He spoke of the need to include all groups, such as the Kokang rebels, the Arakan Army, and the Shan State Army – South in the peace process, whether or not they are members of the NCCT.

“All of the organisations need to be within the agreement. That is our basic principle, and we cannot abandon that basic principle. Even if they leave the NCCT, they will be at an NCA signing ceremony. That is our position,” he said.

The summit was attended by more than 60 delegates representing the UWSA, Shan State Army–South, Shan State Army–North, Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Union, Ta-ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army, National Democratic Alliance Army (or the Mongla group), New Mon State Party, Pa-O National Liberation Organisation, the Karenni National Progressive Party, and Kokang rebels the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army.

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