By THE IRRAWADDY / August 16, 2016
NAYPYIDAW—The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) has approved a principle of all-inclusion at the Union Peace Conference, slated for later this month, during a two-day meeting in Naypyidaw.
UPDJC members (from the government, Parliament, the Burma Army, representatives of registered political parties and eight non-state ethnic armed organizations) agreed to include non-signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in the joint convening committee for the conference, according to Hla Maung Shwe, secretary and government representative of the UPDJC.
The conference will focus on five main topics; politics, defense, the economy, social welfare and the environment and natural resources, said Zaw Htay, President’s Office spokesman.
Zaw Htay told the media on Monday that participants would be given equal status during discussions, whether they were NCA signatories or non-signatories.
The representatives of the ethnic armed groups and Parliament agreed to the scheduled date and the political dialogue framework.
The Union Peace Conference will commence on August 31 and will be held for five days in Naypyidaw’s Myanmar International Convention Centre No. 2. A similar conference is planned every six months thereafter, according to the presidential spokesman.
Hla Maung Shwe said they had decided on all-inclusion for “conference attendants” whether they had previously signed the NCA or not.
“We will uphold the principle of all-inclusion throughout negotiations,” he added. “We will move forward and hold national level talks. We will all take joint ownership of the process and work to include all stakeholders in the process.”
In terms of all-inclusion, Aye Maung, chairman of the Arakan National Party and political representative of the UPDJC, said the group would try to include all stakeholders, including three active armed groups—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army and the Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—in the national conference, despite the Burma Army having previously issued a demand that these groups disarm before joining the peace dialogue talks.
All participants will be considered “conference attendants,” without categorizing them as aligning with the Burma Army or the ethnic armed groups, said Hla Maung Shwe. Negotiations are still being held to decide who will be invited, as the building only holds about 1,600 people.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who also serves as chairperson of the UPDJC, urged stakeholders to “try to reach a common political agreement” in a speech on Monday in which she stressed that support from the ethnic groups would be necessary in order to achieve a genuine federal union.
She said, “We aim to negotiate all of our different opinions at the conference. I believe we can all work together for our people’s prosperity by negotiating, as we all have different views for our future.”
Another UPDJC meeting will be held prior to the Union Peace Conference, said Hla Maung Shwe on Tuesday after the meeting.