The right of secession from the Union of Myanmar and the drafting of constitutions for individual states and regions were the stumbling blocks at the second round of the Union Peace Conference, or 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC) as it has been unofficially dubbed.
The talks in Burma’s capital Naypyidaw, hosted by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, broke up yesterday – after being extended for an extra day – with no breakthrough on the deadlock.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday after the official closing ceremony, Suu Kyi addressed the issue of negotiations between the government’s Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), ethnic political parties (EPPs) and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), saying that “in some cases, negotiations may be smooth and relaxed, but in a different context they can be rather challenging.”
Also speaking to reporters on Sunday, Khun Myint Tun, the president of Shan State-based EAO the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), said, “A political discussion on the wording of ‘no-secession from the union’ dominated this morning’s session. Obviously, there is a need to seek a neutral terminology that is acceptable to everyone.
“As controversy widened, we decided to drop it from the agenda but rescheduled the matter for debate in the next round of the 21CPC.”
However, according to Zaw Htay, a representative of the government’s Peace Commission (PC) negotiating team, it would be inappropriate to put a highly controversial subject such as the right of secession on the negotiation table at this time.
He noted that, at the UPDJC Secretariat meeting, only 12 of the 21 points for debate had been agreed to date.
“Of the 21 points on the agenda for debate, an agreement was made on only 12,” he said at the press conference. “The main talking point here is that the general public cannot take many positives from these results. A key issue is whether ethnic states shall have the right to secede from the Union. Negotiations and counter-negotiations were made back and forth between the EAOs and the government’s representatives. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi today [May 28] declared that the debate over the ‘right of secession’ be rescheduled for the forthcoming round of political dialogue at the UPDJC Secretariat meeting in Naypyidaw.”
A right to secede from the Union of Burma was written into the original Panglong Agreement in 1947 between Suu Kyi’s father, Gen. Aung San, who was representing a future Burmese government, and ethnic leaders.
The 1947 Panglong Agreement, signed in Panglong, southern Shan State, stated that “all states shall enjoy equal rights and status; otherwise, after 10 years of Union, the Constitution of the Union of Burma 1947 guarantees that the right of secession can be exercised under the clauses: 202; 203(1); and 203(2).”
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)