Northern Alliance Members ‘Have Yet to be Invited’ to 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Burmese government has not invited members of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed organizations to the fourth session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference scheduled for next month, multiple sources told NMG.

Lamai Gum Ja of the Kachin Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG) said that the government “has yet to invite” the armed groups, including the Arakan Army (AA), the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The conference is scheduled to be held from August 12-14, with numbers of attendees limited because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“As of today, the KIO hasn’t gotten an invitation letter to attend the coming 21st Century Panglong Conference,” Col Naw Bu, who is in charge of the KIO’s information department, told NMG. “If the KIO receives an invitation letter, our central committee will make a final decision after having a meeting about it. At the moment, we have nothing to say about it,” he added.

On July 21, the Brotherhood Alliance—which includes the AA, TNLA and MNDAA but not the KIO—released a statement saying that they would like to attend the peace conference under the leadership of the negotiation body the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), as long as their security could be guaranteed.

Burmese military spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun acknowledged the joint statement in a press conference on July 25.

“Whether they will attend the conference or not depends on decision of the NRPC,” he said, referring to the government peace negotiation body, the National Reconciliation and Peace Center. “We will take care of their security for sure. We will give them a full security guarantee inside our country. That is not a concern.”

The KIO’s Col Naw Bu said that if government invites his organization, they, like the Brotherhood Alliance, would also attend under the directive of the FPNCC, of which they are also members.

“We are all going with this decision,” he said of the Northern Alliance.

If the government does not invite the FPNCC but separately invites each member organization, they will hold a meeting to discuss the issue, Col Naw Bu said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings between the government, military and Northern Alliance have stopped. Clashes have also been intensifying in Rakhine State and southern Chin State between government forces and Northern Alliance member the Arakan Army.

“If the Burma Army and the AA make a ceasefire in the Rakhine region, I think peace negotiations would be more effective. If not, I don’t think negotiations will be successful,” Kachin PCG’s Lamai Gum Ja told NMG.

The Brotherhood Alliance said in their joint statement last week that they wanted to resume political negotiations.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northern Alliance was in negotiations with the government and army regarding the potential signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Northern Alliance members are also members of the FPNCC, which also includes the United Wa State Army, the Shan State Progress Party, and the Mongla-based National Democratic Alliance Army.