The biggest challenge for the new Myanmar government is to end ethnic conflict and establish peace inside the country, political analysts have said.
Nobel laureate Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s party National League for Democracy (NLD) – which assumed power on April 1 – is trying to hold a peace conference known as Panglong Conference next month to have reconciliation among all citizens.
Han Thar Myint, one of the 13 Central Executive Committee members of the NLD, said: “We are trying to hold the Panglong Conference next month. Lets see if we can hold the conference.”
However, experts believe that it would be very difficult to bring everyone under one umbrella.
Nyunt Maung Shein, a former ambassador and the incumbent chairman of Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies, said reaching a peace accord with the ethnic groups was the new government’s biggest challenge.
The government should uplift the quality of education, poverty alleviation, improve economic conditions and reform institutions, he said.
About the relationship between the political forces and the army, Shein said: “Of course the government should maintain a good and balanced relationship with the army.”
Saying that having a good relationship with China was of utmost importance, he added that one can make friends but one cannot change neighbours.
Western countries were now showing interest about Myanmar but there should be a balance between the outside world and strong neighbours like China, the MISIS chairman said.
A neighbour like Bangladesh was also very important as the country was opening up for improving relations, said Shein, who served in Dhaka as a diplomat in the 1980s.
After five decades of military rule, Myanmar saw a general election last November where the NLD enjoyed a landslide victory.
Shein’s opinion was also shared by former NLD president and current chief patron Tin Oo, who said the government’s major priority was to establish peace and resolve ethnic problems.
“Every ethnic community urged her [Suu Kyi], like her father, to initiate the Panglong Conference to achieve the goals of peace,” Oo said.
The first Panglong Conference was held in presence of then Myanmar leader General Aung San – father of Suu Kyi – and other ethnic leaders in February 1947, when an agreement was reached awarding autonomy in internal administration for the frontier areas.
Myanmar has 135 officially recognised ethnic groups that constitute 30% of the total population.
Oo said the government would pursue a policy of solidarity for the ethnic majority, but it would also be inclusive to other people. “She [Suu Kyi] alone cannot achieve the goal.”
About the expectation of people, Oo said: “There is a desire to change the situation. There will be change. But it must be firm, thorough and stable.”
About NLD-army relations, he said: “We are gradually trying to make them [army] understand.”
They are not like old generals and they think in a modified way of how to proceed to achieve the people’s desire, he said.
ActionAid Myanmar Director Shihab Uddin Ahmed said he also felt that establishing sustainable peace among the 135 ethnic groups was the biggest challenge for the new NLD government.