Armed ethnic groups in Myanmar's Kachin state say the government’s branding of them as “terrorist organisations” is an obstacle to the peace process and want the label removed, reports the Myanmar Times. This was among seven demands made by the groups in a statement released at the conclusion of the pre-21st Panglong Kachin National Conference held in Myitkyina from February 16-18.
U Gam Aung, a spokeperson of the conference, said: “We, people wish the coming second session of 21st Century Panglong Conference to be all-inclusive. We demand that the term ‘terrorist organisation’ not be used because the insurgencies of armed ethnic groups were due to political disagreement. Moreover, no Union peace conference allows terrorists to attend.”
Daw Doi Bu, a Kachin peace advocate, said the term “terrorist organisations” would create obstacles in the path of peace. “It would be challenging to be an all-inclusive peace process if the government keeps labelling armed ethnic groups who are supposed to participate in the peace process as terrorist groups,” Daw Doi Bu said.
Daw Doi Bu said the Northern Alliance formed by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Arakan Army was labelled as terrorist organisation by the Shan State legislature.
The other six demands made by the meeting were related to issues of the 21st Panglong Conference, genuine peace and justice, fighting with the military, freedom of access for humanitarian aid groups, taking action against human right abuses, and the return of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
According to the statement, the pre-21st Panglong Kachin National Conference was held to learn about the role of Kachin people in Myanmar’s peace process and to make preparations to perform that roles.
A total of 21 Kachin civil society organisations and 849 Kachin representatives from all over the country attended the meeting.
The meeting held in Manaw Park’s Majoi Hall also discussed conditions of the Union-level peace process and political discussions framework at the Union peace conference, preparations by ethnic groups to hold national-level political dialogues on discussions to be made at the 21st Panglong and the selection of 100 representatives to discuss affairs of the Kachin nationals during the national-level political dialogues.