Unable to attend the Panglong peace conference as full participants, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the other six members of the United Nationalities Federal Council decided the proceedings could just as easily be “observed” from home, the KNPP’s vice chair Khu Oo Reh said.
As non-signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), the UNFC members were initially invited to the second round of the government’s 21st-Century Panglong Conference with “observer” status, meaning they could watch over the event, but not fully engage in the dialogues or present papers. Despite a last-ditch effort by the government to entice the seven members to attend as “special guests”, the groups decided at an emergency meeting in Chiang Mai to boycott the event.
Khu Oo Reh said the UNFC members were still in the middle of negotiating a “deed of commitment”, a sort of intermediary before signing the NCA, when the Panglong conference approached.
“The UNFC had already stated that it wouldn’t attend the conference if we were not allowed to be involved in discussion and make decisions on equal terms. We were invited to the conference as special guests or observers. So, the KNPP has decided to stand by the UNFC [in choosing not to attend],” he said.
He added that the second Panglong event, a delayed follow-up to the conference last August, focuses on proposals from ethnic groups collected during the national-level political dialogues. The KNPP wasn’t allowed to hold a national-level political dialogue in the Karenni (Kayah) State since it hasn’t signed the NCA.
“We would only be filling up the seats as witnesses for the submission of papers by other ethnic groups,” Khu Oo Reh said.
Among the eight NCA-signatory groups, only the Karen National Union, the Chin National Front and the PaO National Organization have been able to hold the national-level political dialogues. The Restoration Council of Shan State and the Arakan Liberation Party haven’t yet been able to hold the dialogues due to venue troubles, and lack of Union government permission, respectively.
In a statement released following the emergency Chiang Mai meeting, the UNFC said that although its members would not attend the Panglong meeting, they continue to support political dialogue in the name of building a federal democratic Union.
Translated by Thida Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron