Kokang leader throws weight behind Panglong Conference

23 August 2016
Kokang leader throws weight behind Panglong Conference
Photo: S.H.A.N.

The exiled leader of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Peng Jiasheng, released a statement last Monday, saying that the Kokang militia supported the new round of peace talks that are due to begin next week, negotiations which have been dubbed the “21st Century Panglong Conference.”
“It’s time to change from an out-of-date country to a developed country,” said the August 15 statement.
Peng Jiasheng, who is now 85 years old and lives in China’s Yunnan Province, stands accused by Myanmar’s military of igniting the conflict between Kokang rebels and government forces in February last year. The MNDAA, alongside its allies the Arakan Army (AA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), were refused seats at the peace talks table until now as they maintained hostilities against Myanmar forces in the remote northeastern region of Shan State.
Myanmar’s military previously said the three ethnic armed groups would be excluded from any ceasefire initiatives until they had disarmed.
However, the new government in Naypyidaw, led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, has shown a willingness to include all armed groups – whether they be signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement or not – in this new round of negotiations, which are due to begin in the capital on August 31.
According to political analyst Than SoeNaing, the MNDAA leader has changed his tune due to encouragement from Beijing.
Last week, China’s President Xi Jingping hosted Myanmar’s State Counsellor Suu Kyi, after which the United Wa State Army (UWSA) made a decision to attend the Panglong Conference.
Than SoeNaing said he believes that if Suu Kyi’s government invites the MNDAA, AA and TNLA, they would “most definitely” join the conference.
However, Khin ZawOo, the secretary of the Peace Commission, who also joined the official trip to China, stated that the MNDAA, TNLA and AA must first release a public statement saying they will disarm, before they can join the peace talks.
On August 9, representatives of the three militias met for talks with a government peace delegation from the National Reconciliation and Peace Center on the issue of participation in the peace process.
The meeting was held in Mongla, the headquarters of the National Democratic Alliance Army, on the Sino-Myanmar border. After the meeting, the secretary of the TNLA announced that their participation would depend on Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
The so-called 21st Century Panglong Conference is slated to begin next Wednesday in the Myanmar capital, where some 700 delegates from the military, government, parliament, political parties and ethnic groups will sit around a table to discuss the nature of future peace talks.
Hosted by Aung San Suu Kyi, this round of negotiations is being named after the 1947 Panglong Conference, when Suu Kyi’s father, Gen. Aung San, sat for talks with representatives of the Chin, Kachin and Shan minority groups as the country prepared for independence from Britain.