Despite the participation of the Tamadaw, or national Armed Forces, in the 21st Century Panglong Conference that began yesterday in the country’s capital, ethnic groups still question the military’s stance toward peace and reconciliation, according to Nai Hongsar, vice-chairman of United Nationalities Federation Council (UNFC), a coalition of ethnic armed groups.
Nai Hongsar, who is also vice-chair of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the predominant ethnic Mon resistance group, made the statement at a dinner that included NMSP representatives and members of the Mon National Party (MNP) and All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP) and organized by Union Ethnic Affairs Minister Nai Htet Lwin on the eve of the Union Peace Conference launch.
“Although many people embrace the opportunity to find solutions through talks, we ethnic groups cannot yet fully trust the position of the Tatmadaw. The Tatmadaw accepts federalism but does not accept the right for self-determination yet,” said Nai Hongsar.
The vice-chairman added that although the Tatmadaw already announced its position on the peace process, ethnic armed groups remain skeptical about the provision that requires them to disarm.
Defense Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said in his opening speech yesterday that the Tatmadaw’s main priorities for national reconciliation are the establishment of peace, ethnic unity, and development.
“The Tatmadaw will work hard for the success of these programs. It will cooperate with everything as much as possible. The Tatmadaw’s six-point peace policy was created through analysis and based on historical lessons, and it is a policy that both sides should accept.”
The six points of the Tatmadaw’s peace policy are:
1) To have a true desire to achieve lasting peace
2) To keep promises made in peace agreements
3) Not to capitalize on the peace agreements
4) To avoid burdening local people
5) To strictly abide by the country’s existing laws
6) To pursue democracy in accordance with the 2008 Constitution
The last point also constitutes a sore spot for ethnic armed groups and members of political parties and civil society who have long demanded constitutional amendments that would reclaim military control over key ministries and one quarter of parliamentary seats.
“Now, because the government is led by the NLD [National League for Democracy], the situation has improved since the last government. But it is necessary to amend the 2008 Constitution,” said Nai Hongsar.
The first day of the Union Peace Conference included around 1600 representatives of the government, Hluttaw, Tatmadaw, political parties, ethnic armed groups, civil society organizations, UN, and foreign embassies.