UNFC to skip second Panglong Conference unless members sign NCA beforehand

An alliance of ethnic armed groups has said it will not attend the long-delayed second Panglong Conference unless its members first sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

The now repeatedly postponed second 21st Century Panglong Conference is tentatively scheduled for the first week of May. The inclusivity of the conference, and whether non-signatory groups will be allowed to fully participate, has proved a major stumbling bloc.

The Tatmadaw has insisted that only signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement can be invited as full participants, with others granted a much-derided “observer” status.

This week a spokesperson for the United Nationalities Federal Council – an ethnic bloc – said its members are not interested in attending the upcoming conference as observers.

“If we still have not signed [the NCA by the time of the Peace Conference], we have decided not to attend as observers,” said Khu Oo Reh, general secretary of the UNFC. “We have no reason to submit papers. Some [ethnic armed] groups have collected public opinions after holding national-level political dialogues and plan to submit a report to the conference. But we [the UNFC members] weren’t allowed to hold national-level political dialogues. Even if we did hold them, we were told that they [the peace conference organizers] won’t accept the results.”

Khu Oo Reh added that he believes the UNFC members can quickly join the NCA after nine preconditions agreed to by both the government and the UNFC are met.

“Some members requested to discuss the [nine-point] proposal that has been agreed to in principle with leaders, political groups and the public from their respective areas so we haven’t established any firm decision [about signing] up to now,” he said.

The State Counsellor’s Office announced on March 30 that five members of the UNFC have already agreed to join the NCA: the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Arakan National Council (ANC), the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), and the Wa National Organisation (WNO). However, the announcement took the UNFC by surprise, and the NMSP has refuted the claim.

Translated by Thida Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron