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Third round of ‘Panglong’ peace talks begin

Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing delivers remarks on Wednesday, the opening day of the third round of the 21st Century Panglong Conference, in Naypyidaw. (Photo: Facebook / Office of the Commander-in-Chief)

Negotiators gathered on Wednesday to kick off Burma’s latest round of high-level peace talks, ostensibly furthering a process that has bogged down amid ongoing conflict in the country’s border regions.

The third iteration of the “21st Century Panglong Conference” is being held in Naypyidaw and will continue through the weekend.

The last round of talks at this level took place in May of last year. The current government has struggled to meet timetables that it has set itself, with its Panglong peace summits being the most high-profile case in point.

Representatives from 10 ethnic armed groups that are signatories to Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement are in Naypyidaw for this latest dialogue, as well as several non-signatory groups.

The 21st Century Panglong Conference, version 3.0, is scheduled to run through Monday.

“I want to tell the government and Tatmadaw [Burmese military] that we are here to meet, and we are hoping for the best,” Gen. Gun Maw, a vice chairman of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), was quoted by state media as saying. The Kachin Independence Army — the KIO’s military counterparty — has been front-and-centre in the most protracted of recent years’ conflicts, in the country’s north.

The attendance of the KIA and several NCA non-signatories was highlighted by the state-run Global New Light Myanmar, which trumpeted their participation on page 1 of its July 11 edition. China reportedly facilitated the attendance of members of the so-called Northern Alliance, a coalition of ethnic armed groups that includes the KIA and other NCA non-signatories largely based in Burma’s northeast.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has said the peace process is her highest priority as de facto leader of the country, but the constraints of her position have been manifest since her government took office in 2016: She has no constitutional authority over Burma’s military, and fighting between state security forces and ethnic armed groups has shown no signs of abating under her leadership.