By THE IRRAWADDY/ May 16, 2016
/Aung San Suu Kyi wants to speed up efforts to convene a so-called “21st Century Panglong Conference,” according to sources who attended a meeting establishing the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) in Naypyidaw on Monday.
At the Panglong Conference, Gen. Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father, brought together a handful of major ethnic groups in 1947, the eve of independence from Britain, to forge an agreement granting the groups autonomy in Burma’s “frontier areas.” With Aung San’s assassination later that same year, the promises of Panglong were never fulfilled.
This was the second meeting this month that the state counselor, Suu Kyi, held with representatives from the Burma Army and the former Myanmar Peace Center (MPC). The NRPC will be headquartered in Naypyidaw, and the Rangoon-based MPC buildings will be used as a branch office in the commercial capital, according to a statement posted by the State Counselor’s Office on its Facebook page.
Suu Kyi visited the MPC in Rangoon on Saturday.
“The NRPC will be a governmental organization which will be run under the Ministry of the Office of the State Counselor, and the budget allocation will be allocated by the Union government,” according to the statement by the ministry.
The previous MPC was government-affiliated but operated with some independence, and was funded primarily by foreign foundations. It was criticized for alleged misuse of its budget, the opacity of its balance sheet, and the high salaries its employees were rumored to pull in.
Kyaw Tint Swe, who is yet to be confirmed by Parliament as the minister heading Ministry of the State Counselor’s Office, will lead the NRPC formation committee.
In the meantime, they will form a committee to prepare for the convening of the 21st Century Panglong Conference and two other sub-committees, one for ethnic armed groups that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last October and another for those that did not.
Suu Kyi will meet representatives from other organizations involved in the previous administration’s peace talks next week, some of which include representatives from various ethnic groups. Ethnic armed groups themselves and the Parliamentary Committee on Peace, however, have not yet been included in talks concerning the peace conference.
Hla Maung Shwe, a former MPC adviser who attended the meeting with Suu Kyi on Monday, said the state counselor was pushing for the 21st Century Panglong Conference to be held at the end of July. But he could not confirm whether the NRPC would be able to adhere to that timeframe.
“There will be many more steps in the process,” he said. “We haven’t even begun to include the ethnic armed groups in the planning of the conference.”