Hopes for peace rest on 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference

By Bi Shihong Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/24 22:23:39

The second meeting of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference finally kicked off on Wednesday in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, after being postponed several times. Despite some media outlets claiming that the symbolic meaning attached to the meeting is far beyond its realistic significance, it has been an extraordinary gathering bringing the divided parties together to discuss state affairs.

Myanmar has been unable to bring an end to its decades-long domestic conflict since it officially declared independence in 1948. After the National League for Democracy (NLD) assumed power in April 2016, it has been devoted to promoting national peace and reconciliation and resolving the issue of ethnic armed forces. The first meeting of the 21st Century Panglong Conference was held at the end of August last year. Regretfully, after the meeting, divisions and even armed conflicts among different parties have continued, leading to the repeated postponing of the second meeting.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been advocating for an "all-inclusive" peace process, which is supported by the military. Signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) is beneficial to all parties involved, including the ethnic armed forces. Despite the imperfectness of NCA, the armed ethnic groups not yet on board are still expected to sign the agreement while reserving their disagreements over some clauses of the pact.

In order to increase their leverage in the negotiations with the government, seven ethnic armed forces in Northern Myanmar have formed a Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC). Urged by China, FPNCC stated on May 17 that it is willing to attend the second meeting of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference if they receive an invitation letter, and it has been prepared for direct dialogues and negotiations with the government to resolve the conflicts in northern Myanmar and promote domestic peace.

The Panglong Agreement reached in 1947 cannot address the new conundrums plaguing Myanmar, however, the Panglong spirit, which is reflected in the agreement, remains to be the legal basis for the unity of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

That is why the Panglong spirit has been repeatedly referred to by Suu Kyi and her NLD government, the military and the ethnic armed forces.

Clarifying the meaning of the Panglong spirit and reaching interpretations that all parties will agree on to promote national peace and reconciliation would be easily accepted by all.

Myanmar faces twin issues of peace and development. Peace is not only of vital importance to Myanmar, it is also significant for maintaining security and stability in the China-Myanmar border regions and furthering friendly cooperation. China has been a firm upholder of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Without interfering in Myanmar's internal affairs, China has been playing a positive and unique role in pushing forward the peace process in Myanmar. China-Myanmar 2+2 High Level Consultations have been held twice, which is helpful to promote the peace process in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi visited China from May 13 to 17 and attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, during which President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang conducted talks with her. The Chinese leaders urged an early ceasefire in northern Myanmar to ensure peace on the border, saying that China supports the second meeting of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference and will continue playing a constructive role in promoting Myanmar's national peace and reconciliation. This is of great significance to both sides.

China's efforts in promoting peace in Myanmar have been spoken highly of  by all parties in Myanmar and the international society. As a friendly neighbor, China is wielding constructive influence to push for cooperation between different parties in Myanmar, as well as the country's better and faster national development. Myanmar's President U Htin Kyaw has also said that China's constructive help is of vital importance for furthering the relationship and realizing the peace process in Myanmar.

It is unrealistic to expect all problems to be resolved through one meeting once and for all. However, solutions acceptable to all parties could be figured out through sustainable and peaceful negotiations.

The author is a professor at Center for China's Neighbor Diplomacy Studies and School of International Studies, Yunnan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion



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