During a three-day conference near the Thailand-Burma border, 130 ethnic political leaders and representatives from civil society and armed ethnic groups designed a six-point “political roadmap” as an alternative to President Thein Sein’s eight-point peace plan.
“We would not like to go along with the government’s peace plan, especially points 5 through 8. It forces us to accept ‘negotiated surrender.’ For this reason, we had to convene this conference to gather all the voices of ethnic people,” said Nai Hong Sar, a member of the Working Group for Ethnic Coordination (WGEC) that includes experts and key leaders from the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC).
WGEC was the primary organizer for the conference held from September 14 to 16, during which ethnic people were invited to express their concerns about the government’s peace plan. Armed ethnic groups conveyed particular dissatisfaction with the plan’s requirement that they form political parties and enter parliament before being able to alter the 2008 Constitution.
Conference attendees developed a three-step alternative peace plan and a six-point road map addressing peace dialogues. The fifth step of the roadmap stipulates the need for an ethnic-wide, Panglong-style conference to allow political parties, ethnic representatives, and government leaders to discuss how to establish a “genuine union” that guarantees the rights of all ethnic people.
The 1947 Panglong Conference brought together ethnic leaders and national hero General Aung San, father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, resulting in the Panglong Agreement that included provisions for federalism in the “Frontier Areas” along Burma’s borders. However, General Aung San and other leaders were assassinated shortly after the agreement was reached, and the proposed system never materialized.
Ethnic representatives also advocated for broader representation of ethnic people in peace talks, and plan to ask the government’s permission to hold conferences in the states and divisions of Burma, also known as Myanmar, where the majority of ethnic people live.
On the conference’s final day, ethnic representatives discussed ongoing conflicts in Karen, Arakan, and Kachin States, the latter causing more than 90,000 people to flee their homes due to fighting between the Burmese Army and Kachin forces.
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