In a letter to the men and women of his country, the archbishop of Yangon stresses the importance of government-led peace talks with ethnic minorities. The conference scheduled for 31st August will be the most important since 1947. The military has an “historic role in bringing together the armed groups."
Yangon (AsiaNews) – The 21st Century Panglong conference starts on 31st August. Organised by the government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the gathering will focus on peace talks between the army and all the ethnic groups that have fought autonomy over the years.
For Card Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, the event “is a peace pilgrimage. I encourage our country’s men and women to undertake this pilgrimage with hope. This is a great historic moment, an opportunity of immense significance to our people”.
In a message to his fellow citizens, the prelate notes that this meeting is the first of such importance since 12 February 1947, which "gave birth the Union of Myanmar. It was signed by four groups – Bama, Chin, Kachin and Shan. General Aung San* had the sagacity to see that peace was possible.”
Unfortunately, the general’s "untimely death** rattled a nation. Subsequent events and the dilution of the desire brought unspeakable sorrow to our people.”
Card Bo believes that the “the first Panglong agreement must serve as the foundation to build a great peace. This conference is a first step in the long pilgrimage of hope. Not an end but a process. Sixty years of antagonism cannot be dismantled in a few days of interaction.”
Since the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi came to power on 1st April, they have worked tirelessly to get all stakeholders on board to create an inclusive federal state.
Myanmar is in fact made up of more than 135 ethnic groups, who have always struggled to live together in a peaceful manner, in particular with the central government and its Burmese majority.
In the past, the military junta used an iron fist against the most troublesome groups, including the Kachin who live in the homonymous state in the north, along the border with China.
To prevent renewed conflict, the ruling military junta launched peace talks in October 2015. This led to the signing of a cease-fire with the armed wings of eight minority ethnic groups. However, the signing of the agreement did not bring lasting peace and the army continues to fight in several areas.
Now, “We are greatly encouraged by the spirit of the NLD led by its leader,” the prelate writes. “Millions of hearts endorsed her as their leader in the election, giving a massive mandate for peace.”
For the prelate, Myanmar’s Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) have a key role in the talks. The military " has won the praise of the world for its peaceful transfer of power,” and “can play a great historic role in bringing together the armed groups that favour direct talks with the army and those who would like to have direct talks with the elected government.”
In concluding his message, Card Bo writes: “A nation is in the throes of new birth. With hope in our hearts and prayers on our lips, we send our greetings to all the stakeholders. The longest night always ends in dawn. Let my country rise in a new dawn of peace. Let this great pilgrimage of peace start today.
* Aung Sang headed the Burmese government at the time and is the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy.
** He was assassinated.