Sangkhlaburi (Mizzima) – Aung Min, the vicechairman of the Union Peacemaking Working Committee, said the Burmese government would convene a conference similar to the “Panglong Conference” sometime before 2014. The minister mentioned the plan in a meeting with Burmese exiled groups in Mae Sot earlier this week.
“He said the government would try to start it before December 2012. The latest deadline would be 2014,” said Dr. Naing Aung of the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB). “In the conference, [the parties concerned] would discuss the issues where no agreement has not been reached in the second-level peace talks.”
He said Aung Min said the government would decide on issues where it exercised authority, and on other issues, the Parliament would decide.
The Panglong Conference, held in February 1947, was an historic meeting that took place at Panglong in the Shan States in Burma between the Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minority leaders and Aung San, head of the interim Burmese government. The leaders unanimously decided to join the Union of Burma.
The legacy of the conference represents issues of ethnic autonomy in self-government, respect for their cultures and other issues.
On Tuesday, Burmese pro-democracy groups including the FDB met with the government peace delegation.
The Minister said that the organizations representing Burma’s 135 indigenous ethnic people, political parties, NGOs and representatives of all stratum of the society might be invited to attend the conference. He provide no details, and the concept of who would be represented was sketchy, according to people who attended the meeting.
In the first stage, Aung Min said the conference would focus on cease-fire and peace issues, and after that take up other issues.
“They have not clearly answered our questions regarding the process. It needs to be all-inclusive in the political sense. To rebuild the country, all [parties] need to actively participate. In that way, a ‘genuine country’ can be built,” Naing Aung told Mizzima.
A peace mediator, Nyo Ohn Myint, told Mizzima that that if both sides had mutual trust, the objective of such a conference could be achieved.
“Now, it’s still in a state in which both sides are discussing their basic viewpoints and attitudes… establishing mutual trust is very important. The procedures can be set by negotiating before the talks. But, if they don’t have mutual trust, negotiations will not be fruitful,” he said.
Both sides acknowledged that preliminary discussions could present formidable obstacles even before calling such a conference.
During their four-day visit to Thailand, the Burmese government’s seven-member peace delegation met with 18 groups including pro-democracy groups, social organizations and women’s organizations. On Thursday, the delegation returned to Burma.