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‘Panglong’ peace summit to reconvene 24 May

FILE PHOTO: Ethnic leaders and Burmese government officials attend the opening ceremony of the 21st Century Panglong Conference in Naypyidaw on 31 August 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

The government on Monday set a 24 May date for the convening of the second iteration of the 21st Century Panglong Conference, the current administration’s signature peace dialogue.

The date was decided at a Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting involving representatives of government, the military and ethnic armed groups that are signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

The high-level peace summit was originally due to convene in late February, roughly six months from the original 21st Century Panglong Conference, which was held at the end of August into early September.

That conference was a largely ceremonial affair, with hundreds of participants and dozens of speeches but official debate on matters of substance expressly prohibited by organisers.

It remains unclear what kind of status NCA non-signatories will be accorded at next month’s gathering. The government has been urging the holdouts to get on board with the ceasefire agreement, but about a dozen ethnic armed groups have yet to sign it — comprising the bulk of Burma’s non-state armies.

Just eight groups signed the accord on 15 October 2015, under the previous government.