Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi restructured a key peace committee on Friday, excluding political parties without elected members of parliament from the body as well as from an upcoming peace conference in late July.
Aung San Suu Kyi announced the arrangement during a meeting with members of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), which she has reorganized as an 18-member committee that includes some members of the previous body coming from armed ethnic groups, political parties and the government.
The former UPDJC had three groups of 16 members each representing 90 political parties, whose purpose was to create a framework for holding political dialogue as part of the implementation of a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) that eight of 15 ethnic rebel armies had signed last October with the previous administration.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader who has made ending Myanmar’s civil wars and forging national peace and reconciliation the key goals of her government, intends to hold what she calls a 21st-century Panglong Conference.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, held talks known as the Panglong Conference in February 1947 to grant autonomy to the Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minorities, when he was head of an interim government after Myanmar gained its independence from colonial rule by Britain.
But Aung San’s assassination in July 1947 prevented the agreements made during the conference from reaching fruition, and many ethnic groups took up arms against the central government in wars that ground on for decades.
“Only political parties whose members were elected to at least one seat in parliament can be represented at the [coming] peace conference,” Aung San Suu Kyi said. “This is our policy.”
Ninety parties contested for seats in the National Assembly in last November’s elections, but only 20 won seats—most of which went to representatives of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won roughly 80 percent of the votes.
Aung San Suu Kyi also said she will assume the position of UPDJC chairperson with Kyaw Tint Swe, Thu Wai and Phado Kwe Htoo Win appointed as vice chairmen, and former government peace negotiator Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Center as secretary.
In preparation for the conference, the UPDJC will work on its agenda based on the terms of the NCA, she said.
The UPDJC meeting will continue on Saturday, when attendees will discuss the establishment of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) and plans for the new Panglong Peace Conference, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
Last week, Aung San Suu Kyi renamed the Myanmar Peace Center, the government-affiliated organization that has arranged previous peace talks, the NRPC and relocated it to the country’s capital Naypyidaw to fast-track preparations for the conference.
Reported By RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.