Panglong talks carry significance beyond Myanmar

By Yu Ning Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/30 23:43:39

Long-awaited peace talks start Wednesday between the Myanmar government, led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the country's myriad guerrilla armies. The five-day talks, dubbed the 21st Century Panglong Conference, aim to end the long-running ethnic conflicts that have plagued Myanmar since independence.

Continued armed conflicts involving groups vying for power-sharing and interests have held back economic development of what was once one of the richest nations in Asia. Northern Myanmar, where local armed groups are still locked in skirmishes with government troops, is particularly crisis-affected.

Fully aware of the perils of ethnic conflicts on the country's development, Myanmar's State Councilor and the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has prioritized ending the civil strife since the NLD took power. The Nobel laureate said during a recent visit to China that the most important aim for Myanmar is "to achieve peace and unity among the different peoples of the union."

The gathering in capital Nay Pyi Taw carries a lot of weight on fostering national reconciliation and peace in Myanmar. Myanmar isn't the only country in Southeast Asia tormented by ethnic problems. Should the conundrum be properly addressed, it will not only pave the way to rebooting Myanmar's economy, but also will contribute to regional peace, stability and development. A favorable environment could be created to facilitate the advancement of the "Belt and Road" initiative for the good of regional connectivity and prosperity.

China is a stakeholder in Myanmar's peace process and should offer a helping hand. Whether the armed conflicts in northern Myanmar can be quelled matters a lot to the peace and stability of China's southwestern region bordering Myanmar.

China has played a constructive role in mediating and promoting peace talks in Myanmar. However, it was unfairly accused of backing some ethnic armed groups that confronted the Myanmar government.

This is no reason for China to fan the tensions. China is a victim of the armed conflicts between Myanmar's guerrilla armies and the government. The past few years have seen China grapple with the plight of influxes of refugees fleeing the fighting in northern Myanmar and disturbances to security and trade in China's border region. The China-invested multi-billion dollar Myitsone dam project was suspended partly because of the conflicts between the local Kachin government and the central government.

The promotion of the "Belt and Road" initiative, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor in particular, provides a good opportunity for development in Southeast Asia.

The Panglong Conference is the first step. As long as national reconciliation can be achieved in Myanmar, a new era for regional security and trade will begin.

Posted in: Observer

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