The New Mon State Party (NMSP) is not in attendance at the Union Peace Conference currently underway in Nay Pyi Taw, according to NMSP Vice-Chairman Nai Hongsar.
“This conference is concerned with multiple ethnic nationalities. NMSP had its representatives participate in the UNFC [United Nationalities Federal Council] conference on January 7 – 8. If not all [UNFC] members are joining the UPC, we won’t join, either,” said Nai Hongsar in an interview with the Mon News Agency.
He added that NMSP representatives are not participating in the conference for reasons also cited by other UNFC members, primarily that several ethnic armed groups reject the new political dialogue framework. Drawn up by the government and Tatmadaw, the Burmese army, the framework was expanded beyond its original three-part structure of representatives from ethnic armed groups, government, and political parties to include the military and parliament. Nai Hongsar asserted that the government thereby retains too much control over the conference’s outcome.
According to a statement released January 5 by over 130 civil society organizations, the framework’s structural change threatens the forum’s effectiveness when addressing key issues of democracy and equality for ethnic groups.
“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 [NCA].”
According to Daw Khin Ohmar of Burma Partnership, a network of advocacy groups in the Asia-Pacific region, the Tatmadaw’s influence over political decision-making should be curtailed to allow ethnic armed forces and political parties to cooperatively decide on actions resulting from the current political talks.
The UPC commenced on January 12 in Burma’s capital with speeches given by President U Thein Sein, Defense Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and ethnic leaders.