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Federalism on agenda at peace talks, says conference secretary

The first round of the 21CPC in Naypyidaw, August 2016. (PHOTO: DVB)

The upcoming peace talks in Naypyidaw are an opportunity to draft a blueprint for a future federal union in Burma, according to the secretary of the government’s Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), which will host the meeting.

Sai Nyunt Kyaw, secretary of the UPDJC’s political parties wing, said the Union Peace Conference, which is slated to be held in mid-March and will bring together the democratically elected government, the military, ethnic armed groups and political party representatives, should come up with tangible results that will muster public trust in the ongoing peace process.

Dubbed the 21st Century Panglong Conference, or 21CPC, by the Aung San Suu Kyi-led government, the main focus of this round of negotiations should be about federalism, said Sai Nyunt Lwin.

“The incumbent government already hosted the first round of the talks, and this time we need to be able to show some kind of result if we want to improve the public perception,” he said. “At the very least, an agreement between the ethnic armed organisations that have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) on the principles of a federal union.”

He reiterated: “The main discussion point at the next round of the 21CPC should be the principles of a federal union.”

The second round of peace talks is also slated to include discussions on political, social, economic, security, land rights and environmental issues.

Pado Kwe Htoo Win of the Karen National Union, one of the major ethnic organisations and a signatory to the NCA, concurred with the UPDJC secretary. “The political sector discussion will focus on federal democracy, and we hope they will be able to lay out a set of basic principles,” he said.

Speaking to DVB in reaction to these expectations, political columnist and analyst Kyaw Win said that any discussions aimed towards a federal union cannot be fruitful without a compromise between the Tatmadaw [Burmese military] and ethnic armed groups.

“Regarding the discussion on federalism –the ethnic armed groups need to be realistic with their demands and the same goes for the Tatmadaw, he said. “A federal union will never happen unless both sides reflect the real situation on the ground and stop making unrealistic demands.”