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‘Join us,’ Suu Kyi says in Union Day speech urging ceasefire accession

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi gives the keynote address at a Union Day commemoration ceremony in Panglong, Shan State, on 12 February. (Photo: DVB)

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi took the opportunity at a Union Day commemoration in Shan State on Sunday to urge non-signatories to the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) to drop their reservations and have the “self-confidence” to join the accord.

Speaking in Panglong, Shan State, where her father Aung San and 23 ethnic leaders signed the original Panglong Agreement 70 years ago, Suu Kyi spoke of the day’s historic origins, the pact’s unfulfilled vision for post-independence Burma, and of her hopes for the future in a country still wracked by civil war.

“Nothing is achieved easily. We haven’t achieved peace across the nation since the post-independence period. There are battles taking place between and among us in one place or another as you all know. To achieve peace is an opportunity as well as a duty,” Suu Kyi said, according to an unofficial translation of her speech.

“I want to request of national ethnic groups who have not signed yet the ceasefire treaty to sign with bravery and self-confidence. Join us in our 21st Century Panglong Agreement,” she said.

Just eight of the country’s non-state armed groups signed the NCA on 15 October 2015, with about a dozen more either withholding their signatures or denied the chance to join the accord. Suu Kyi has increasingly embraced signatory status as a pre-requisite for a formal seat at the negotiating table as the peace process moves forward, a position set out by the Union Solidarity and Development Party government that hers succeeded.

“Intervention or others’ involvement is likely to be a problem,” Suu Kyi said Sunday of the peace process. “In our country, some people do not want national reconciliation and peace. This may be caused for their own sake or for other reasons. Yet, we need not be afraid of these negative minds and spirits. These can be overcome through our judgment, unity and courage.”

The government has scheduled the second iteration of her 21st Century Panglong Conference to begin 28 February, with at least one senior official involved in the peace process signaling that only NCA signatories will be allowed to participate.

Suu Kyi was joined Sunday by her lead peace negotiator, Dr. Tin Myo Win, the Shan State chief minister, Lieutenant-General Yar Pyai, representatives of political parties and members of ethnic minorities. Ceremonies marking Union Day were also held in Rangoon and Naypyidaw.