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Second peace conference with ethnic minorities needs to show results

February 28, 2017 - MYANMAR

The second peace conference to end the fighting between the military and rebel groups, held in Nay Pyi Taw, will be expected to produce more than talk, but de facto Myanmar leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi might be limited by how much she can promise. The powerful military will have the last word.

The first peace conference, called the 21st Century Panglong Conference, brought together delegates from ethnic rebel groups, the government, political parties and the military. Held in Naypyidaw, it concluded on Sep 3, 2016, with no more than an expressed willingness to keep talking.

That willingness was seen as progress. Negotiations on the difficult issues - such as the recurrent demand of institutional reform to loosen the armed forces' grip on the state - have almost negligible chances of prospering.

Reporting on the first conference, the New York Times notes that the military-drafted constitution gives the armed forces vast powers. It includes control over three critical ministries and 25 per cent of the seats in Parliament. Amendments must be approved by more than 75 per cent of Parliament, which means that any proposed changes are subject to the military's veto. The newspaper reports that some participants called for increasing the representation of minority ethnic groups in the military and for other changes in the security sector, but the military has insisted that non-state armed groups must disarm and demobilize first.

Myanmar Peace Talks End With No Breakthrough but Some Hope (NYT Sep 2016)

Myanmar's Suu Kyi kicks off peace conference with appeal for unity (Reuters 31 Aug 2016)

Second Panglong peace summit to kick off Feb 28 (Myanmar Times 7 Feb 2017)

Date written/update: 2017-02-14