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The Arakan National Party (ANP) has announced that its decision on whether or not to participate in the 21st Century Panglong Conference’s second round will be made after weighing the outcomes of a meeting of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) this week.
The issue was broached at a recent meeting of the ANP’s central executive committee at its party headquarters in Sittwe, the Arakan State capital.
“Most importantly, national-level political dialogues have not been organised [in Arakan State]. We did not have permission to do so. We still cannot,” said ANP General Secretary Htun Aung Kyaw, referring to a consultation phase of the peace process that has taken place in some parts of the country, but not Arakan State.
“The party’s chairman will discuss this matter further during the UPDJC meeting on 12 May. Only after the meeting will the ANP make a decision on whether it is participating in the Panglong conference or not,” he told DVB.
“The ANP welcomes the Union-level peace conference and peace process. However, if the interests of Arakanese people are at stake, the party will need to have more serious discussions,” he continued.
The ANP is considered one of the country’s strongest ethnic political parties, winning several seats in the 2015 general election and a hotly contest by-election race in Arakan State’s Ann Township last month.
“If a national-level political dialogue is not permitted to take place in Rakhine [Arakan] State, the voice of the Arakanese people will not be heard at the 21st Century Panglong Conference,” Aye Maung, the ANP’s chairman, told DVB last week.
In February, the UPDJC decided that national-level political dialogues in Arakan and Chin states would be postponed. The UPDJC later did an about-face on Chin State, allowing a national-level political dialogue to be held in Thantlang Township, but it has continued to insist that such a dialogue in Arakan State must wait.
The Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), an ethnic armed group that is signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, issued a statement on 6 May saying that its participation in the second Panglong summit was likewise uncertain, also citing the failure to hold a national-level political dialogue in advance of the conference.
Further discussion with other stakeholders, including civil society organisations, would be had before a final decision on whether or not to join was made, the group said.
As questions continue to swirl over who will and will not be in attendance later this month — whether by choice or because the government has left them off the official roster — a member of the UPDJC said the committee was committed to “full inclusion.”
“For the time being, UPDJC is focusing on utmost inclusion. The UPDJC has not made any decisions regarding whether or not certain organisations are participating in the conference. We pledge to commit to full inclusion,” said Myo Win, the UPDJC member.
He was speaking following meetings held by several UPDJC work committees on political, social, economic, land, environmental and security issues, which spanned 7-9 May in Naypyidaw.
The 21st Century Panglong Conference is due to convene on 24 May.
Additional reporting by Aung San Oo.