Topics limited at upcoming CSO peace forum

Min Aung Htoo, one of the members of the Committee for the emergence of CSOs Forum Min Aung Htoo, one of the members of the Committee for the emergence of CSOs Forum

Topics on the table at the upcoming civil society forum – an element of the peace process aimed at involving grassroots organizations – have been further limited, while the meeting has also been truncated to just two days.

Civil society groups have previously expressed dissatisfaction over a perceived restriction on issues up for discussion, but are now finding the agenda whittled further.

Under earlier guidelines established by the preparatory committee, the CSO peace forum was slated to engage participants on three topics of discussion: economic, social and land and environmental issues. Subjects pertaining to national defence, religious matters and disarmament were meanwhile restricted to meeting involving the government and the eight National Ceasefire Agreement signatories.

Ko Thwin Linn Aung, a member of the committee for planning the CSO peace forum, told the Kantarawaddy Times that all subject-based topics will be put on hold at next week’s forum, which will instead focus on setting a common stance on political restructuring for a federal Union.

“This time, we’ll not discuss these [subject-based] topics. The CSOs should get more detailed about input on political restructuring. We need to think about what kind of policy we’re going to take. However, if there are fundamental concerns about the subject topics, we can bring them up during the national-level political dialogue meetings,” he said.

Last year, State Counsellor and head of the peace process Daw Aung San Suu Kyi announced the government’s intention to hold separate CSO peace forums in order to incorporate civil society groups into the peace talks. The discussions are meant to serve as formal avenues to collect advice and input for the government and signatory groups to consider at the Union-level 21st-Century Panglong Conferences.

The committee tasked with engaging the CSOs for the forum pledged that the government would not interfere with the management of the forum. However, civil society members have expressed concerns that they have been prevented from engaging in topics deemed too political.

Next week’s CSO peace forum discussions will continue with the purpose of honing advice and forming respective committees in line with the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee’s topics, said Ko Min Aung Htoo, one of the members of the committee for engaging the CSOs.  “The first [CSO] forum in Nay Pyi Taw will last only two days. There are many issues to discuss so we’ve decided to carry those on to next forum,” he told the Kantarawaddy Times.

The nationwide CSO peace forum will be held on February 24-25 in Nay Pyi Taw. A preparatory forum will also take place just prior, on February 22-23 in Taungyi, Shan State.

Translated by Zin Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron