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Wa reserve judgment on Panglong II

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The United Wa State Army’s political wing is reserving judgment over convening a second Panglong Conference, an idea conceived by an ethnic Zomi group and handed over to Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to manage, a UWSA officer says.

wa-state-army-soldiersThe stance was revealed at the United Wa State Party’s (UWSP) fifth annual district-level conference, a 10-day affair that started on December 20 in Mongmaw District in the northeast of Shan State.

“We didn’t clearly understand the idea of convening a second Panglong Conference led by Aung San Suu Kyi so we are still looking into it,” a UWSA officer said on condition of anonymity.

More than 3,000 members attended the party conference at which it reached six policy conclusions. They are: not to surrender; not to secede from Burma; not to demand or declare independence under any (Union) government; to continue demanding regional autonomy; to set up discussions with the new parliamentary government; and, to promote regional development and maintain peace.

While some ethnic groups are supporting the call to convene a second Panglong Conference, some groups have called the idea premature. 

National League for Democracy central executive committee member Win Tin said: “We used the word ‘21st century Panglong Conference’, which expresses that we want to use modern technology of the 21st century. We cannot convene the conference in major cities such as Rangoon, Mandalay or Taunggyi as it would raise tensions between us and the junta.”

“However …  we cannot disregard important matters such as keeping up ‘Union spirit’ or the ‘Panglong spirit’. We need to convene it. We need to negotiate. Aung San Suu Kyi raised the idea that we could convene the conference by using the technology of the 21st century,” Win Tin explained. 

Suu Kyi told Mizzima in an interview on November 17: “We must seek alternatives. That’s why I’ve said we must find alternatives suited to the 21st Century. I heard about the [idea of a] second Panglong Conference on the radio when I was detained under house arrest. Since that time, I thought we should apply modern technology. Our young technicians will find ways.”

In a rebuttal of such an online symposium, Khun Okka, a legal adviser to the Shan State Congress, said that convening the conference using modern technology would challenge the legality of the conference.

“If they convened the conference via modern technology … the legality of the conference would be in question. If so, the results of the conference would be weak. Then, they will encounter difficulties to implement such weak results,” Khun Okka said.

He added that the second Panglong Conference could only be fruitful if the ruling government participated in it, which it had made no signs it would do so.  

The Kalaymyo Declaration was issued on October 24 at the 22nd anniversary ceremony of the founding of the Zomi National Congress (ZNC) in Kalay Township (Kalaymyo), Sagaing Division. It called for the reconvening of the conference for national reconciliation. Suu Kyi was under house arrest when the declaration was made but she has joined calls for such a conference and the ZNC has handed over its implementation to Suu Kyi and her party, the NLD.

The Panglong Agreement was reached between the Burmese government under General Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father, and the Shan, Kachin and Chin peoples on February 12, 1947. Signatories accepted in principle “Full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas” and envisioned the creation of a Kachin State by the Constituent Assembly (the first post-independence parliament). The deal came a year after the First Panglong Conference was held in the town of the same name in the south of Shan State.

Since 1948, the ethnic minorities have had their rights and self-determination in their traditional areas of control denied, leading many of the groups to armed struggle against the Burmese military junta. Clashes in many areas have raged for more than 60 years.

Although the junta had pointed out that it was able to obtain a ceasefire agreement from the ethnic armed groups after 1988, some of the groups have said that the agreements failed to contain a political agreement.

The junta ordered a total of 40,000 troops of ceasefire groups to be transformed into Border Guard Forces (BGF) under the administration of the Burmese Army, but many groups have rejected the junta’s BGF plan. It is estimated that the UWSA, the armed wing of the UWSP has more than 20,000 troops.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 30 December 2010 01:20 )  

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