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100+ CSOs urge reconsideration of representation in upcoming peace conference

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copy of the joint statement on the Union Peace Conference (Photo: MNA)
copy of the joint statement on the Union Peace Conference (Photo: MNA)
More than 100 civil society organizations (CSOs) called for amendments to the framework of the Union Peace Conference, set to begin on January 12, in a statement issued last

Tuesday.

The statement sums up its recommendations by concluding, “…at a time when a sustained ceasefire that is inclusive of all ethnic armed revolutionary forces is yet to materialize, we, the civil society organizations, call for the postponement of political dialogues, reconsideration of the representation proportions and voting quorums for political negotiations, and mustering suggestions and views of those ethnic armed organizations which have not yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.”

“We want this proportion [of representatives] not to be a number,” said Daw Khin Ohmar of Burma Partnership in an interview with the Mon News Agency (MNA). “But what we mainly want to point out is that with that proportion, it is just like giving the Tatmadaw power to make the decisions for this political talk. If the decisions for this talk can be made only when the government agrees, a genuine Union Peace Conference won’t be achieved as the people expect.”

According to the recently released framework for the country’s political dialogue stage, 150 seats are reserved for the Tatmadaw, ethnic armed groups, and political parties, 75 seats are allotted each to the government and the parliament, and 50 seats are reserved for other invitees including ethnic leaders who do not represent a particular armed group.

Daw Khin Ohmar added that the power of the Tatmadaw, or Burmese Army, should be reduced when it comes to political decision-making. Instead, she asserted that resolutions should be agreed upon by consensus among the participating political parties and ethnic armed groups. The current allotted proportion of representatives appears to place ultimate decision-making power with the Tatmadaw, she warned, and must be reconfigured for the intent of the Panglong Agreement to be achieved.

“This is the best time to implement national reconciliation. If the points from the Panglong Agreement cannot be implemented at this moment, the new road towards future peace won’t be realized.”

The statement released on January 5 also suggests that “changing the concept of political dialogue based on a tripartite representation as outlined in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement into that of a pentagonal representation weakens the seriousness of the focus upon democracy and ethnic equality issue which is the key to Burma’s political problem.”

The political dialogue structure was previously understood to be “a tripartite dialogue with equal proportion and number of representatives from the government, political parties and ethnic armed groups. Individual experts and organizations will also get involved in the tripartite through the respective groups,” said Nai Hongsar, Vice-chairman of United Nationalities Federation Council (UNFC), in an earlier interview with MNA.

Nai Hongsar added that because the government signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with only eight of the country’s ethnic armed groups, it did not constitute nationwide representation and was unlikely to provide solutions or establish genuine peace in the country.

Tuesday’s joint statement was supported and signed by more than 130 civil society organizations including Burma Partnership, Burma Women’s Union, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma, Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma, Human Rights Foundation of Monland, and Karen Human Rights Group.

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