The now much talk about 21st Century Panglong Convention, initiated by Aung San Suu Kyi, is literally confronted with the military’s notion of national reconciliation, which is embedded in negotiated surrender and/or total annihilation of the ethnic resistance armies, coupled with continued Bamar supremacy tendency on one hand; and the hazy federalism promises of the NLD, which no one knows what it really has in store, for failing to spell out clearly on how the party envisioned federal union should look like, on the other hand.
But her treatment of the ethnic nationalities armed and unarmed as not being so important or insignificant was viewed as a betrayal to the common cause and not taken lightly. Suu Kyi has only negotiated intensively with the military regarding national reconciliation, but not with ethnic nationalities so far, even it has all along been agreed that the three most important stakeholders – the military, NLD and the ethnic groups – should interact with each other.
This dissatisfaction is compounded by the 8 States versus 14 States and Divisions/Regions controversy, as the NLD’s top leadership have shown, on several occasions, that they were on the same page with the USDP-Military clique. This in turn lead to the suspicion of Suu Kyi and the NLD being on the same boat with the military, where policies related to the pursuing of Bamar ethnocentrism and denial of national equality for the ethnic nationalities are concerned.
As such, it is not a wonder that the ethnic nationalities rank and file are so reluctant and even pessimistic of the Suu Kyi initiated Panglong-like convention that is supposed to take place in a month or two.
Given such a backdrop, only a bold initiative of Suu Kyi would be able to dispel such distrust.
Firstly, it should make a declaration of NLD position on federal union, which is in line with the 1947 Panglong Agreement, 1947 Union of Burma Constitution and Ethnic Federal Proposal of 1961. Of course with necessary innovation to be in tune with the present political reality.
Secondly, a unilateral ceasefire declaration of the government should follow, as it is the only way to create a level playing field, where non-signatory ethnic armed groups could participate, in an all-inclusive manner.
But whether the military will cooperate or come on board for such decisive bold action will be totally dependent on how Suu Kyi would negotiate and handle the situation, as half-measure undertakings like those of the former Thein Sein regime would bring the country nowhere, but only continued warfare and heightened ethnic tension.