The most important talks since 1947. 17 ethnic groups who agreed to government's conditions attending. Today the inaugural speech of Ban Ki Monn, UN Secretary. Rohingya issue will also be addressed by a commission headed by Kofi Annan. The Catholic Church: "Let's ensure collaboration to all those who seek justice and peace".
Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) - Today the XXI Century Panglong Conference, the largest peace assembly of organized in the country since 1947, begins. Willed by the League for Democracy government, the assembly will start with a speech by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, and aim to ensure peace in a country for decades the scene of clashes between different ethnic groups and the central government.
17 ethnic groups are participating, including the armed factions of Karen, Kachin, Shan and Wa. Only three minor groups were not invited because they refused to accept the conditions imposed by the government.
The talks are scheduled for the next five days, but diplomats work will continue for the next few months, if not years. The aim of the government, de factoheaded by Aung San Suu Kyi, is to demilitarize armed groups guaranteeing their participation in the management of the country through a federal system.
Myanmar is in fact made up of over 135 ethnic groups, who have always struggled to live together in a peaceful manner, in particular with the central government and its majority Burmese constituent . In October 2015, the ruling military junta had launched peace talks that led to the signing of a cease-fire with eight national minority ethnic armed groups. But the signing of the agreement did not bring lasting peace and the army continues to fight in more areas.
The first Panglong Conference (Shan State town) was held on February 12, 1947, and on that occasion the General Aung San, Suu Kyi's father, was able to unite the different ethnic minorities for the creation of Myanmar, which gained independence on January 1, 1948. The assassination of Aung San undermined their achievements, leading the country to slip back into chaos.
Another issue to be discussed concerns the Rohingya, a Muslim minority of Bangladeshi origin not recognized by Myanmar and held in refugee camps in Rakhine State. The government has announced the creation of an advisory committee to address the issue which also includes Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general. The presence of the latter was the subject of harsh criticism from public opinion, particularly those who see the Rohingya as a domestic issue to be resolved by Burmese leaders.
A Catholic delegation will also attend. In their intervention, shared with AsiaNews, Church representatives want to emphasize the role of religion in the future development of the country. "Myanmar – they write - is a religious nation, and has never experienced atheism". Realizing the importance of the faith for the people, "the religious leaders have shown admirable collaboration of in the initiative for the creation of Religions for Peace ', which work together to deal with natural disasters".
Pope John Paul II, conclude the representatives, "has defined peace as something that comes from justice. We must move from the past and work for peace and justice [...]. The Catholic Church assures all people of good will their collaboration for the creation of a prosperous nation".
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."
For decades, the country’s minorities have been victims of persecution and violence, after unfulfilled promises of federalism and autonomy. The new NLD-led government is set to start plans for “peace, development and sustainability”. Doubts remain however about minorities’ effective participation in the peace process.