THE PLOT THICKENS: Wa-led ethnic armed organization leaders unveiled a new peace process game plan

The plot has thickened as the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC), acknowledged as the only game in town is being threatened into a situation to accommodate another game plan headed by the Wa from their mini-state capital, generally known as Panghsang but now changed to Pangkham.

The seven Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), United Wa State Party/Army (UWSP/UWSA), United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA), Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA), Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta'ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA), Myanmar National Truth and Justice Party/Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNTJP/MNDAA), Peace and Solidarity Committee/National Democratic Alliance Army (PSC/NDAA) and Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) held a meeting from February 22 to 24, with New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) absence, although the two sent in position papers to the gathering.

In all thirty-seven delegates attended the meeting, including two specially invited guests, from the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) and Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA).
The ethnic leadership meeting, a third one of its kind came up with a call for a new approach rather than just following the government initiated 21st Century Panglong Conference based on Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which the Wa initiated meeting opted to boycott or not to sign it unless a new compromised agreement could be agreed upon.

The nine point statement of February 24, 2017 basically argued that in spite of NCA deliberation, the armed conflict along the Burma-China border in Kachin and Shan States have escalated with no sign of stopping, while on the eve of the second 21st Century Panglong Conference the country is loaded with difficulties and unresolved problems. Thus, the necessity to call for a three day conference, leading to the following agreed statement, signed as the “Ethnic Armed Revolutionary Leaders Third Meeting”.

1. The ethnic armed revolutionary leaders attending the meeting commonly agreed on the political definition of Wa State's (UWSP/UWSA) “Panglong Spirit” that is based on its discussion paper, “Wa State's general principle and detailed demands”.

2. To immediately withdraw the identification as terrorist groups on the MNDAA, TNLA and KIA of December 7, 2016 by the Shan State Parliament that is against the will of the people.

3. To immediately stop all military offensives, in order the country to be peaceful and start the reconciliation process.

4. Implements the principle of all-inclusiveness to all armed revolutionary organizations and urges equality-based modal negotiation. In pursuing to achieve peace, resolving political problems, employing military means and threatening attacks are rejected.

5. Under the acceptance of “Wa State's general principle and detailed demands on political negotiation”, formation of a political negotiation group, initiated by Wa State, to negotiate with the Burmese government is being agreed.

6. Depending on the development of the situation, the participants of the ethnic revolutionary organizations would discuss and adjust the Wa State's general principle and detailed demands and accept it as “general political principle and detailed demands of the ethnic armed revolutionary organizations on political negotiation”.

7. The meeting participants of the ethnic armed resistance organizations are of the opinion, regarding the NCA as follows:

(a) The Burmese government aim to replace the historic Panglong Agreement with the NCA could not accepted.

(b) The meeting participants of the ethnic armed revolutionary organizations demand that the NCA be replaced with a more justified ceasefire agreement.

8. The meeting participants of the ethnic armed resistance organizations call on the United Nations and People's Republic of China to look upon as  arbitrator in Burma's peace process.

(a) To urge for a new ceasefire agreement between the Burmese government and the non-ceasefire ethnic armed organizations.

(b) To urge for speedy realization political negotiation, leading to the formation of a genuine federal union, based on the already signed different levels of ceasefire agreements between the Burmese government and the ethnic armed revolutionary organizations.

9. Regarding capital investment and developmental projects, the opinion of ethnic armed resistance organizations attending the meeting are:

(a) China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) policy is peaceful equal development of all neighboring countries. This policy is necessary for Burma's economic development and security and as well benefits the arbitrator.

(b) It is believed that China's OBOR policy could successfully be implemented within Burma and beneficial for ethnic areas.

(c) The ethnic armed resistance organizations agreed that security of the foreign investments will be guaranteed. (Unofficial general translation from Burmese text by this writer – February 27, 2017)

In addition to the major call of the meeting statement on Panglong Spirit – according to the Wa definition includes rights of self-determination, ethnic equality and democracy - to be adhered, the dossier distributed to the invited participants prior to the Wa initiated third meeting, dated January 15, 2017, accused the Aung San Suu Kyi headed National league for Democracy (NLD) regime as being ethnocentric like its predecessor Thein Sein government, toeing and implementing the NCA line rigidly, which only benefits the Bamar ethnic group at the expense of the non-Bamar ethnic nationalities.

Responses to the Panghsang statement

One top United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) leader, who is also the vice-chairman of the NMSP told 7 Day Daily on February 26: “We just can't hold on indefinitely only to NCA. There are quite a lot that have not sign the NCA. It is important that all could participate. If we are to build peacefulness, all ethnic armed revolutionary organizations need to be involved. For this we need broad-mindedness and find ways.”

He further said that he didn't like to give opinion on Panghsang statement for the time being. NMSP did not attend the meeting but sent in its position paper.

On February 25, according to Mizzima, UNFC general secretary Khu Oo Reh said: “Concerning UNFC, there will be no changes and would continue as originally planned.”

The UNFC is scheduled to meet the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on March 1 to discuss policy matters, which is likely to be ironing out its nine point proposal to be able to sign the NCA.

Regarding the Panghsang statement Shan nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) general secretary, Sai Nyunt Lwin according to Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) February 25 report said: “I think they are looking for a new approach. The government side, especially the Tatmadaw, would not be able to accept it. But the good thing is that this search for a new approach would still go back on negotiation track. As it is (the statement) is not abandoning the negotiation, I am not sure whether we could welcome it or not. I think we should look into this approach. One thing that irked me is that probably Chinese influence seems be a little bit too much in it.”

The same DVB report wrote that presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said: “I believe that it is (the statement) not following the 21st Century Panglong line. It is directly contradicting it. We are moving accordingly to the commonly agreed tripartite dialogue – government, parliament, military; EAOs; and political parties, which will go if needed up to the constitutional amendment.”

When asked if the planned March 1 meeting between the State Counselor and the UNFC could be affected because of the Panghsang meeting, as UNFC key players are involved in it, he replied that it won't be affected and that the meeting would take place as scheduled to discuss policy matters.


Following the Panghsang meeting and statement a lot of questions are stirred up such as,  whether the UNFC would follow the UWSA lead and opt for a new approach in going about the peace negotiation process; if China with its self-projected neutral mediator stance going to go so far as to persuade the Tatmadaw and government make concession for another ceasefire deal on behalf of Panghsang that doesn't need to go through NCA signing; and whether the UNFC's nine point proposal be considered by the government and Tatmadaw positively.

For now, the UNFC members would need to digest the Panghsang meeting outcomes and thrash out any misunderstanding among themselves that might arise on how to position itself in the choice of whether to go on pursuing the NCA line or opt for a new approach as prescribed by the latest ethnic leadership meeting, in Panghsang.

Regarding China, it might be in a bit of awkward position, as it only wants to be an active neutral mediator, where its main concern is its national interest tied closely to its economic scheme and keeping Burma as a political entity out of the Western orbit, actions which would seem openly taking sides with the armed ethnic groups could jeopardize it interest on Burma as a whole. Still, it would be interesting to see how China would react to this Panghsang's initiative as becoming an important arbitrator, in collaboration with the United Nations in Burma's peace process undertakings.

Now that the new game plan or alternative way out of the NCA deadlock is being proposed, the government and Tatmadaw are faced with a choice to either agree to the UNFC nine point proposal, so that its members would join the NCA fold or rejecting it and push the UNFC further into the arms of Panghsang initiated approach, which calls for a new set of ceasefire agreement without having to sign the NCA, leading to the participation in the peace process.

As it is, all is now open to speculation and until the March 1 scheduled meeting between the State Counselor and the UNFC that is to take place and the amount of compromised outcomes that would follow and made publicly known, all will be left to be indulged in a guessing game, whether we like it or not.

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Commentary on "Daw Suu breaks silence on U Ko Ni assassination"

At long last, the lady has come out in the open to honor the fallen hero U Ko Ni and as well shows her stance of justification in the struggle for democracy. Although a bit late, it is better than never doing it.

Hopefully, she would extend the return of her new found boldness, righteousness and regain momentum, to stand fast against the other injustice like military occupation and oppression in ethnic states; human rights violations; freedom of press hampered by draconian laws; racism; and all forms of religious fanatic ultra-nationalism.

People are hoping that she would become her old-self again that adhere to liberal democratic principles in words and deeds, without fear and not just a politician that calculate too much and keep unnecessary silence, when the show of her moral authority and justified stance crucially needed.

Link to the story : Daw Suu breaks silence on U Ko Ni assassination

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Commentary on "'Patriotism' behind U Ko Ni assassination, says minister"

The assassination motive of U Ko Ni could be many, including the extreme nationalism or should we say narrow nationalism.

But one thing is sure that there is an organization or communities behind this assassination plot.

It could be from ultranationalist to those who would tend to lose if and when U Ko Ni's suggestions regarding the simple majority motion, to call for a referendum on whether the people of Burma wanted the military-drafted constitution, would be heeded, provided that the NLD is bold enough to follow the lead.

But still the government and home ministry owe credible clearance and clarification if the administration want to come out clean from this controversial murder case.

Link to the story:  'Patriotism' behind U Ko Ni assassination, says minister

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Shan National Conference blocked by Tatmadaw

Burma’s military has intervened in plans for Shan National Conference (SNC), insisting that state capital Taunggyi cannot be used as a venue for the forum and instead directing organizers to smaller townships.

According to Col. Sai La, an official with the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), which is hosting the event, his group met with Tatmadaw [Burmese military] representatives at talks mediated by the government-led Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) on February 15. He said that the Tatmadaw offered only a restricted shortlist of options for holding the SNC, which is the last forum where ethnic Shans may gather to express opinions and make decisions ahead of the national peace talks known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC, which is slated to be held in mid-March.

“The Tatmadaw said we could hold the conference in Mongpan, Mongtaw or Nam Pan Kun townships,” he told Shan Herald on Friday.

The three towns are each underdeveloped and inconvenient in terms of travel, accommodation and hospitality, he said.

“We requested permission to hold the SNC in Taunggyi,” said Sai La. “They responded by saying that only the Tatmadaw could stage official meetings in the state capital. Other than the three towns put to us, they would not budge in discussing the matter further.”

The RCSS spokesman said that, the following day, the Shan armed group sent a letter to Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, a Tatmadaw representative at the UPDJC. However, he replied saying that he could not interfere in what the military had ordered.

Sai La said he then wrote to State Counselor and head of the UPDJC Aung San Suu Kyi on February 19. Her office responded the next day, advising the RCSS to take up the matter again with the relevant military officials. Suu Kyi’s office further said that it could not intervene in the situation.

“Again, this time on February 23, we sent another letter to Aung San Suu Kyi in her capacity as both State Counselor and chairperson of the UPDJC,” Sai La said. “We told her it would be impossible to host the SNC in those towns because they were not equipped to accommodate at least 400 or 500 persons.

“We again requested permission to hold the event in either Taunggyi or Panglong Township.”

He said that if they could not successfully hold a Shan national conference how could the people’s voice be presented at the second round of the 21CPC in a few weeks’ time.

“This national conference is not only for us [RCSS/SSA],” Sai La added. “It is for all Shan people. We will have to listen to their voices to reach a consensus.”

He reiterated: “Taunggyi is the state capital, and Panglong is a historical city. They should allow us to hold it in either of those places.”

The RCSS/SSA was one of eight ethnic armies that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the President Thein Sein government in October 2015.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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Kutkai men arrested on suspicion of links to rebels

Two men in northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township have reportedly been arrested by the Burmese military on suspicion of association with a rebel armed group.

 According to Sai Jing Lu, an MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) representing Hsenwi Township Constituency No.2, the two villagers, Sai Aung Ba, 32, and Sai Kang, 22, were arrested in Karleng tract in Kutkai Township on February 3 by Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Division 99 based in Kutkai.

“The Burmese troops arrested them because they suspected they were linked to the SSPP [Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army], he said. “The Tatmadaw [Burmese army] said that if they could prove they were not associated with the SSPP they would release them.”

These two men are residents of That Fah village in Kengmon tract in Kutkai Township, Shan State Assembly lawmaker Sai Jing Lu explained. “On the day of their arrest, they were returning home from selling their buffalos in Kutkai,” he said. “Their car broke down in Karleng, so they went into the town to borrow a friend’s motorbike to buy the equipment to fix their car. After buying the equipment they were driving back to the car on the motorbike when they were stopped by Burmese soldiers from Division 99. They were questioned but they don’t speak any Burmese. The soldiers then arrested them.”

The SNLD MP said he received a report of their arrest on February 15. He then contacted the Kutkai Township’s governor, Kyaw Winn.

On February 17, the parents of both men requested a meeting with their sons, he said, and were able to see them that afternoon. Meanwhile, Sai Jing Lu said, he contacted local authorities in Kutkai and asked them to process the case.  

He said the men were told they would be released if they had nothing to do with the Shan rebels. However, at the time of press the pair was still in detention.

Clashes have been reported regularly between the Tatmadaw and SSPP/SSA, which is a member of the ethnic bloc United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). The SSPPSSA declined to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government in October 2015. However, it did sign state-level and union-level ceasefire accords with the then Thein Sein government. On January 25, Shan Herald reported that clashes broke out between two groups in southern Shan State’s Mong Hsu Township.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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As renewed heavy fighting erupted since almost one month ago, between the Kokang or Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Burma Army or Tatmadaw in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, in addition to the on and off skirmishes with members of the Northern Alliance-Burma (NAB),  the Chinese Ambassador to Burma, Hong Liang urged all the other non-signatory Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), so that the war along the Burma-China border could be stopped and normalcy returned.

NAB is an ethnic military alliance made up of Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), MNDAA and Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which has unleashed a counter-offensive on November 20 last year, in Muse Township, northern Shan State, that took the Tatmadaw by surprise. While the alliance has now withdrawn its offensive, saying that it was just a “limited strike” to show its military capability and send the Tatmadaw a strong message that they are a force to be reckoned with, the fallout from the conflict lingers on with sporadic skirmishes taking place until today.

China wants ethnic armed groups in northern Burma to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in order to ease fighting near the Sino-Burma border, China’s ambassador to Burma said in an interview with the state-run New Light of Myanmar on February 12.

“By signing the NCA, battles can be avoided and there can be guarantees for peace and stability along the China-Myanmar border,” Ambassador Hong Liang recently told  the state-run New Light of Myanmar, adding that in order to stop the conflict, “respective parties need to be well convinced of each other.”

Against this backdrop, stakeholders are busy maneuvering or fine tuning their political footwork so that the unfolding scenario would work to their benefit, each in its own way.

Lately, important development that should be taken into account are the Kachin-Karen Laiza Joint Statement, Wa's non-signatory ethnic leadership gathering, State Counselor-United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) scheduled meeting, and the Chinese involvement in the peace process.

KIO-KNU Joint Statement

Another extraordinary occurrence that happened was that the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Karen National Union (KNU) meeting in Laiza, the Kachin headquarters, and the release of a joint statement, pinpointing some paragraphs from the “Deeds of Commitment” signed during the tenure of ex-President Thein Sein, that armed engagement wouldn't be used to settle political disagreement.

The Kachin and Karen seven point joint statement of February 16 pointed out the need to adhere to the peaceful negotiation, all-inclusiveness and rejection of the Tatmadaw calling the KIO and NAB as below:

·         Article No. 3 of the  Deed of Commitment signed on 12 February 2015, by the KNU, Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS),  Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA),  Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army Peace - Council  (KNU/KNLA-PC) and  the  Government  of  Myanmar,  the Tatmadaw (Defense Services), the Union Parliament, 19 State/Regional Ethnic Affairs Ministers  and  55  political  parties,  committed to not  use  force  to  resolve  political problems  but resolve political problems through political means.
·         Article 5 of the Deed further committed the signatories to not engage in armed conflict or  engage  in  matters  that  can  disrupt  the  peace  process  during  the period  peace negotiations are taking place.
·         Chapter  1  (g)  of  the  Nationwide  Ceasefire  Agreement (signed  on  15  October  2015) is committed “To  convene  political  dialogues  with all  relevant participants based  on ethnic peoples’ desires and wishes towards long lasting peace.”
·         (We) further urge that until peace is achieved, all ethnic armed organizations engaged in the peace process, not be considered terrorists but rather as partners in the search for peace.
Two advisers from Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) were also present at the meeting.

It was remarkable, as the KNU leader Mutu Say Poe has been at odd with KIO leadership after its signing of the NCA, together with other seven EAOs that later lead to the suspension of the KNU membership on its own initiative from the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), which it has been a part, when it was formed in February 16, 2011.

Before that speculation were rife that the KNU delegation lobbied Chinese authorities to pressure the KIO into signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), according to a source close to the KNU. But the KIO-KNU seven point joint statement dispelled such speculation, as the KNU was in fact agreeing to the UNFC nine point proposal saying that it would make the existing NCA stronger.

According to Myanmar Times, the KNU official Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo said, “Though we have signed the NCA earlier, it would be good to have the nine point proposal by UNFC because it would strengthen the ceasefire than now it is.”

Prior to the meeting and making the joint statement public with the KIO, the KNU leader was said to have met the Chinese authorities at their invitation in Kunming.

China's role

The active Chinese role in Burma's peace process is indisputable, since the Kokang conflict erupted in February 2015, when Pheung Kya-shin's MNDAA troops tried to wrestle back the power of  Kokang Self-Administrative Zone from the Burma Army's installed administration. The conflict produced thousands of refugees fleeing to China and also caused deaths and wounded to some Chinese citizens by stray bullets and artillery from the Burma Army. The Chinese reacted strongly to the point that it even pulled out a massive military, live ammunition, exercise for a few days at the border to shock and awe the perpetrators.

But since then, China has quietly corrected and calibrated its policy of non-interference, its shock and awe approach in the case of Kokang conflict, to an approach of “creative involvement”.

Recently, Chinese authorities have invited the KNU leader Mutu Say Poe to Kunming, where the parties should have discussed matters relating the upcoming peace conference. The meeting that followed between the KIO and KNU also touched on the same theme, as the joint statement that came out shortly after indicated.

Apart from that, reportedly, China's special envoy for Burma would also meet the UNFC on February 25, in Chiang Mai Thailand, following the UWSA initiated EAOs leadership meeting, after which a scheduled meeting between the State Counselor and the UNFC would take place sometime within early March.

UWSA meeting

Meanwhile, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) planned EAOs leadership meeting just started on February 21 and is said to go on until 23, where the UNFC and as well the NAB are invited for the gathering. The meeting is believed to map out on how to deal with the upcoming second 21st Century Panglong Conference.

In May and November last year, the UWSA organized two summits among ethnic leaders in Panghsang to strengthen coordination and team building. Again in March, UWSA hosted another coordination meeting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Shan State Army - South (SSA-S) over their territorial dispute.

According to Ms Yun Sun, a well known analysis on Burma-China relation, China backs UWSA efforts to enhance its leadership role among ethnic groups, hoping that the group could emerge as a centripetal force to rein in and manage various ethnic minorities.

Aung San Suu Kyi and UNFC meet

After weeks of negotiation, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi sent official invitation to meet the UNFC at its request, according to Zaw Htay spokesperson for the presidential office in March.

Tun Zaw, UNFC joint secretary confirmed that the meeting is fixed for March 1 and already confirmed by the government side, according to the report of RFA in its February 20 report.

The 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC) was said to be rescheduled although the exact date could still cannot be determined, as the KNU would be holding its Congress to elect its new leadership every four years, apart from the national-level political dialogue to be held in Chin State still under preparation and Arakan State also pressing to be allowed to do the same.

According Frontier Myanmar recent February 20 report, Zaw Htay said the union conference or 21CPC would be delayed until the end of March, meaning it would be sometime in April.

Regarding the UNFC, it is only interested to discuss policy matters and push through its 9 point proposal to be incorporated into the NCA so that it could sign it and participate in the 21CPC. It has made itself clear that it is not interested to attend the conference either as observer or any status that would be lower than the fully-fledged participants.

Outlook and perspective

There is no doubt that politicking or political maneuvering footwork are intensely going on among the stakeholders as 21CPC is geared to restart soon.

But let us ponder a bit more to see what different stakeholders would likely be having in their mind.

·         The State Counselor would like to push through her rigid time-frame agendas and driving hard to be able to include all non-signatory EAOs;
·         China is also flexing its muscles to indicate that it is now ready to upgrade its sympathetic, supporting bystander stance to become a co-player, if not as an authority for a new set of game;
·         The Tatmadaw is enduring bad press and tarnishing more than ever its own image by committing gross human rights violations in Arakan State and armed conflict ridden Kachin and Shan States, and at the same time, not knowing how to go about on whether to accommodate democratization further or put a stop to it, so that it could continue to maintain its political edge;
·         The UNFC is trying to push through its nine point proposed agenda, in order to be able to achieve a level playing field so that it may not be handicapped in peace negotiation process;
·         The UWSA, together with the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), are worried that if the UNFC could make a deal and enter the 21CPC, they will be left out and won't be able to further their aspirations of upgrading their administrative statuses; and
·         The NAB primary is worried that its members would be left out from the peace dialogue process and would continue to be targeted by further military onslaught.

While it might seem that accommodating such a variety of wish list and aspirations could be really daunting and a mammoth task, all the stakeholders or parties do have one thing in common, which is the absence of war and achievement of peace that would foster reconciliation and political settlement, followed by much needed development in all socioeconomic sectors.

To be able to do this, as time and again been advocated, all parties concerned must first have an unwavering “political will” buttressing it with “trust-building”, a term frequently used by all contenders but rarely put into practice.

As such, the best place to start the realization of political will, which is the achievement of “peace”, would need to create an atmosphere of “trust”. In turn, in order to be trustworthy an act of “trust stimulation” is needed. And this is none other than to stop the war of offensive initiated by the Tatmadaw first and foremost.

If this could be pulled through by the Tatmadaw in good faith, all the rest would eventually fall into line. In other words, the earnest peace process negotiation within the mold of 21CPC could follow, which until today is still in a limbo. Otherwise, we all will continue to be bogged down in the vicious circle of violence and disagreement unable to resolve our differences as civilized human beings should be doing.

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Ethnic politicians call for guarantees ahead of NCA signing

Several ethnic politicians have voiced the opinion that the Burmese government must offer greater guarantees if ethnic armed groups are to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), and say such proposals must be laid out at the second round of peace talks which are scheduled to be held in mid-March.

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) soldiers march on the 20th anniversary in the Headquarters Pangsang in 2009.

Sai Kyaw Nyunt, one of the joint general secretaries of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) who also serves as the secretary of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), said, “The ethnic groups have been cheated for more than 60 years. That’s why we always have doubts. For us to sign the NCA, we must have solid promises.”

He emphasized that all sides need to talk and build trust with one and other at the upcoming peace talks in Naypyidaw, widely dubbed the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, or 21CPC.

“I want all political parties and ethnic armed groups to attend this upcoming 21st Century Panglong Conference,” said Mon National Party (MNP) Chairman Nai Ngwe Thein. “Those who are responsible [for logistics] should ensure this happens. They should also consider what decisions can be made at this meeting.”

The ethnic Mon leader said that armed conflict is ongoing at a time when they are trying to building peace; therefore, suspicions and doubts must exist on all sides. He called on the Burmese Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hliang to bring about an end to the fighting.

Nai Ngwe Thein said that if the Tatmadaw [Burmese military] declared a cessation of hostilities, then the ethnic groups would follow suit.

According to Saw Kyi Lin, the general secretary of the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party (Myanmar) based in Karen State capital Hpa-an, it is impossible for just one side to stop the conflict. He said both warring parties must meet to talk peace.
To date, only eight ethnic armed groups that have signed the NCA: Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA); Karen National Union (KNU); Democratic Karen Benevolent Party (DKBA); Karen National Liberation Party-Peace Council (KNLA-PC); Chin National Front (CNF); All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF); Pa-O National Liberation Party (PNLA); and Arakan Liberation Party (ALP).

Another 13 ethnic armies are included in the talks but are yet to sign the accord.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)

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Heal: Do Not Wound

"Let us continue the pilgrimage to peace – not return to war.” His Eminence Cardinal Charles Bo makes a plea for peace and an end of conflict in Myanmar.

Myanmar is passing through some of the most agonizing moments in her history. With our hands reaching out, we appeal to all: Please heal – do not wound.

The people of Myanmar are deeply saddened by what looks like a relapse into darker days. Myanmar needs the world’s attention to strengthen its fragile journey to democracy.

Three major events are disturbing the people of Myanmar. The report published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 3 February is heart-breaking and profoundly disturbing. The United Nations reports brutality and other grave human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in an area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State. The UN High Commissioner portrays such inhumanity and barbarity that it is hard to read about, and hard to believe.

Over the past five years, Myanmar has experienced many positive changes and has become a more open country. My country men and women believe that it is a dawn of hope.  The opening of the economy and media, a functioning democracy, a smooth transfer of power – all pointed towards a new Myanmar of hopes and dreams.

We pray earnestly that this may not become a false dawn. Merchants of hatred are in full swing. Hatred against others of different races and religions has intensified to a very alarming level. What happened in Rakhine state needs to be stopped once for all.

The situation in Kachin and northern Shan states is equally of deep concern to me, particularly with the arrest of two Kachin Christian pastors, Nawng Latt and Gam Seng, in Mong Ko, following the bombing of a Catholic church. I pray for their trial, that justice will be done and they will be released. I pray too for the thousands displaced by recent military offensives in northern Myanmar.

The tragic assassination of U Ko Ni just over two weeks ago was another step backwards for Myanmar and a blow to our hopes of democracy and peace in our country. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends, and my prayers for his family, and for all those with whom he worked and who continue his courageous efforts to move towards the constitutional reform so needed in Myanmar.

I call on the government of Myanmar to bring an end to the military offensive against civilians in Rakhine state. Peace with justice is possible and is the only way.

I call on the government of Myanmar to bring an end to the military offensives in Kachin and northern Shan states.
I call on the government of Myanmar to allow unhindered access to all parts of Rakhine state, Kachin state and northern Shan state for international humanitarian aid agencies, media and human rights monitors.

I call on the government of Myanmar to work with the international community to investigate the crimes reported by the United Nations, in a truly independent way that results in justice and accountability.

And I appeal to the international community to be vigilant. You have welcomed positive changes. People of Myanmar seek peaceful and positive change. Merchants of hatred who lived by spilling the blood of brother against brother are active again.  Myanmar needs the world community to extend all support to the present democratic government with clear understanding that violence against any population is not acceptable.

I offer my prayers and solidarity to everyone in Myanmar – and especially at this time in Rakhine state, Kachin state and northern Shan state – who is bereaved, vulnerable, fearful, homeless, hungry, sick and to all the orphans and widows, the victims of rape and torture.

Let the UN’s devastating report serve as a wake-up call for us all.

Let us work together to end violence and terror in our country, and to build a Myanmar where every man, woman and child of every race and religion born on Myanmar soil is recognised both as our fellow citizen and as our brother and sister in humanity.

Let us build a Myanmar where hope is not an illusion, and where we can join hands, regardless of ethnicity or religion, in peace and solidarity. I pledge to renew my efforts to that end, and I extend my hand to any of my brothers and sisters of any race or religion who will join with me. Peace with Justice is possible. 2017 has been declared a year of peace by the Catholic Church.

Let us continue the pilgrimage to peace – not return to war.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo is Archbishop of Yangon and became Myanmar’s first ever Cardinal in 2015. He has long been a foremost advocate in the country for human rights, religious freedom, inter-religious harmony, peace and justice.

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