State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of eight ethnic armed groups that signed last year’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) decided at a meeting today to start new, more comprehensive peace talks — dubbed the “21st Century Panglong Conference” — no later than the last week of August.
“We mainly talked about organising the upcoming peace conference. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the ethnic leaders discussed on principal a suggestion to convene the dialogue no later than the last week of August,” said Hla Maung Shwe, the secretary of the Panglong preparatory sub-committee 2, who was at the meeting.
“We also discussed means of including ethnic armed groups that have not yet signed the NCA, as well as the role of civil society organisations and political parties in the talks,” he added.
Suu Kyi is also expected to meet with representatives of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an umbrella group of ethnic militias, in the coming days, according to Hla Maung Shwe.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has invited leaders of the UNFC for talks and a delegation from the group is set to arrive in Rangoon within three days to negotiate the meeting. We are aiming for the meeting between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and UNFC leaders to take place in the first week of July,” he said.
He said the ethnic Naga-based National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) was also invited to a meeting with the government.
According to Hla Maung Shwe, Suu Kyi acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead, but urged everyone present to remember their commitment to peace.
“As we value [peace], we are going to make an effort and try to cooperate no matter how difficult it is,” she said.
“We would like to urge everyone to help establish a precious and genuine federal democratic union where security and freedom of all ethnic nationalities can be guaranteed. This is not something we can implement on our own, but we would like to get through this as soon as possible,” she added.
There has been no word from the government on plans to meet with three armed groups currently fighting the Burmese army: the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Kokang-based Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.