The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of ethnic armed groups, decided during last-week’s emergency meeting that it will attend the upcoming 21st Century Panglong Conference.
Senior leaders of the UNFC’s member groups attended the emergency meeting held on August 24 and 25, in Thailand, where they released a statement that they will join the 21st Century Panglong Conference, or commonly known, Union Peace Conference, which will begin on August 31.
“We have decided to join the 21st Century Panglong Conference. Joining the conference is a sign of building understanding with the government. However, no decisions will be made at this upcoming conference,” said Nai Hongsar, UNFC’s vice-chairman.
UNFC’s statement also states that at the emergency meeting, the members presented and discussed the results of its delegation meeting with government’s negotiation team at National Reconciliation Peace Center (NRPC) on August 20. Its additional meeting with government negotiation team on August 21-22 involved exchanging views on the proposed political dialogue framework, as well as its meeting with Organizing Joint committee of 21st Century Panglong Conference.
Based on the discussions at the emergency meeting, the UNFC will join the Union Peace Conference with the objectives of joining the step-by-step political talks for the establishment of a federal democratic union, according to the statement.
UNFC is comprised ethnic armed groups that have not signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government yet.
Although the UNFC has confirmed that it will attend the Union Peace Conference, some of its members, namely the Ta’ ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA), which are still in armed conflict with the Burma army [Tatmadaw], are continuing discussions on whether to join the conference.
According to an interview with MNA on August 26, the three armed groups – TNLA, MNDDAA and AA – stated that they have not been invited by the government to the conference yet.
“We had not heard that Nay Pyi Taw [government official] had already sent us the invitations. They [gov’t] have not contacted us. They have not contacted our group either. If they [AA] received the letter, they would inform me, but so far no contact and no invitation has been received,” said Lieutenant Colonel Kyaw Han of Arakan Army.
Likewise, the TNLA hasn’t received an invitation from the government yet, although it has been reported in newspapers that the government have sent the invitations.
“We have not received the invitation letter yet. They [government] said they invited us through the NDAA. The media are also reporting that the invitation letter was already sent to us. But that is not true. We did not get the letter yet and the NDAA also has not contacted us about it yet. If they [gov’t] want to invite us, they can just invite us directly. It seems that they do not want to invite us, and that is why we are yet to receive any invitation. If we are allowed to attend the conference, we are ready to,” said Brigadier General Tar Jode Jar, Vice-chair of TNLA.
Thus far, only 7 [armed groups] members of the UNFC will attend the Union Peace Conference and these armed groups are the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), the Karenni Progressive Party (KNPP), the Wa National Organization (WNO), the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), and the Arakan National Council (ANC).