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Let grassroots groups host dialogue, say CSOs

Burma is an ethnically diverse nation with over 900 different ethnic groups, according to the 2014 census data. (PHOTO: DVB)

The Burmese government should devolve to grassroots ethnic organisations the role of leading political dialogue in the peace process, said the Civil Society Forum for Peace (CSFOP) yesterday.

Concluding a forum in Yangon that included more than 145 representatives from 92 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the CSFOP sent an open letter to Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, and leaders of the peace negptiating teams representing both the government and the ethnic armed groups, urging Naypyidaw to devolve its authority and to review the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

Ashin Awe Bar Tha, a member of the CSFOP working committee, told DVB that ethnic grassroots communities and local CSOs understand the situation on the ground better than the government, the Burmese military or the ethnic armed groups.

“Grassroots groups know what is happening in their area. Often the authorities do not,” said the senior Buddhist monk. “They also know which sublects need to be negotiated or discussed through political dialouge. That’s why we firmly believe that local groups should take the lead during national-level political dialogue.”

At a Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting of government officials, military officers and ethnic armed group representatives last week in Naypyidaw, it was decided that the next session of peace talks, dubbed the 21st Century Panglong Conference, will be held in January.

The delegates at that meeting also agreed to to allow the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) to host an ethnic Shan-based political dialogue in Lin Khay, Shan State.

The decision came as a compromise: the RCSS wanted to host the dialogue in the Shan capital Taunggyi, however the military advocated holding the meeting in the remote town of Mongpan.

Maran Jaw Gun, a coordinator of the Kachin Peace Network, said he welcomed the opportunity for local Shan people and representatives of the various other ethnic groups in Shan State to host such an event.