NMSP denounces observer role in 21st Century Panglong Conference

NMSP’s Chairman Nai Htaw Mon (middle) speaking to reporters (Photo: BNA) NMSP’s Chairman Nai Htaw Mon (middle) speaking to reporters (Photo: BNA)

The New Mon State Party (NMSP), the ethnic armed group of the Mon people, will not take part in the upcoming 21st Century Panglong Conference, if it’s only allowed to attend as an observer, according to NMSP’s Chairman Nai Htaw Mon.

The Chairman stated the above in a press conference after the 70th Anniversary of Mon National Day central celebration in Japan Well Village, a NMSP controlled area, in Three Pagodas Pass (TPP) Sub-township, Thai-Burma border.

“We won’t attend the 21st Century Panglong Conference if we are not allowed to present or discuss anything. If we are invited just to be an observer, we won’t go,” said Nai Htaw Mon.

The chairman’s statement referred to the plan that the government’s peace commission is undertaking. Namely, to invite the ethnic armed groups that have not signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) as ‘special guests’ to the second Union Peace Conference, also known as the 21st Century Panglong, projected to be held on February 28.

“We will sign the NCA if they accept the UNFC’s requested 9 points. We stand with the UNFC alliance,” said Nai Htaw Mon, adding that the UNFC’s 9-points included that the government must announce a nationwide ceasefire, international witnesses must be included in the NCA inking, and tripartite talks must be held for political issues.

At the 70th Union Day held at the Panglong Monument in Panglong Town, southern Shan State, the state counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged the ethnic armed groups that have not signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) yet to sign the NCA with trust and bravery as well as to participate in the 21st Century Panglong Conference after the NCA-inking.

“I really want to request the ethnic armed groups that have not signed the peace accord to sign it with trust and bravery. Afterwards, please join our 21st Century Panglong Conference. Let’s think of how the public will be happy and grateful for having them [armed groups] involved,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Of the 21 ethnic armed groups in the country, only 8 groups have signed the NCA. The NMSP is yet to sign the accord.

This year’s Mon National Day celebration coincided with Union Day on February 12, under the Christian calendar. However, Mon National Day, using the Mon lunar calendar, falls on one day after full-moon day of Thabodwe month.

Over 1000 people, including members of the TPP-based Mon Women Organization, Mon health and education organization, veterans, and locals, participated in the [NMSP-led] celebration of the 70th Mon National Day in Japan Well Village.

“It has become tradition for armed groups to have armed parade at their ceremonies. However, the government’s Tatmadaw informed us not to conduct this type of parade. Therefore, to hold an armed parade, we must have some forces taken from here to be stationed for security reasons. Thus far, there has been nothing of note to report,” said Lt Col. M Seik Chan, of commander of battalion no. 5 of Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), NMSP’s armed wing.

The Mon State Government’s Security and Border Affair Minister warned the NMSP not to conduct an armed parade during its central celebration of 70th Mon National Day [held] at the football field in Japan Well Village, Thai-Burma border.

The 70th Mon National Day central celebration was held in Kyaikmaraw Town, Mon State, and celebrations also took place not only in Mon State but in Karen State, Yangon Region, Mandalay Region, and Nay Pyi Taw Capital, as well as other parts of the world, including U.S. and Australia, where Mon people have resettled.