State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi promised ethnic armed groups yesterday that her government has no hidden agenda for the peace process.

Yesterday’s talks had been requested by leaders of the eight armed groups that signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement in October. The groups had expressed concerns about the incumbent government’s peace plans, and the 21st-century Panglong Conference, fearing they’d be ignored in the peace process.

Ethnic leaders, including the chair of the Restoration Council of Shan State, said that a second Panglong conference could inherit the unpredictable consequences of the first Panglong Conference, held between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, Bogyoke Aung San, and ethnic leaders of Kachin, Shan and Chin states in 1947. After that first Panglong Conference, the then-ruling regimes ignored their agreements with the ethnic leaders, resulting in decades-long civil war.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi tried to reassure the armed groups’ leaders, saying her government will seek to foster cooperation.

“I would like to tell you that our government has no hidden agenda,” she said. “We only have a vision to build a nation of federal Union, where citizens of the Union can live in peace and prosperity.

“Without all, we cannot succeed, as the peace conference will be a place where the ethnic nationals can disclose their concerns and problems,” she said.

She also told leaders of the signatory groups not to fear change, and urged them to overcome their fears by having confidence and trust in her government.

Colonel Khun Okkar of the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation said the essence of Panglong was in the spirit of working together toward the goal of building the Union. The government, he said, should be committed to achieving that goal.

“If there are guarantees and commitments for building the union, then we don’t need to talk about secession,” he said.

The signatory armed ethnic groups are concerned about inclusion, fearing that the government will leave out certain groups, as the former government, headed by then-president U Thein Sein, did, said Daw Saw Mra Razar Lin, of the Arakan Liberation Party.

“They said they’re engaged in talks with the non-signatory groups, including the ones in northern parts of Myanmar,” said Daw Saw Mra Razar Lin, who is also a member of the Peace Process Steering Team, formed by eight leaders from the signatory groups.

The signatory groups are considering appointees for the Panglong Conference’s supervisory committee, she said.

U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, said yesterday’s meeting had focused on the goals of the upcoming Panglong summit.

“The main point of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech today was in the Panglong spirit of unity for building our nation, not the unity for secession,” he said. “She also explained what Bogyoke Aung San’s perspective on secession was [at the time of the first conference, when some ethnic minorities were pushing for independence].”

During the meeting, Col Khun Okkar said the signatory groups proposed ways to cooperate with the government during the peace process.

“Though we could not have a two-way interaction in the meeting,” he said, “we could discuss some topics concerning resettlement and rehabilitation programs, development agendas, and the implementation of state-level and Union-level ceasefire agreements that had been created under the previous government.”

The state counsellor said stakeholders in the peace process should not pursue just their own self-interest, warning that this would lead to long-term failure.

The legacy of the peace process, and the responsibilities to preserve that peace, will be inherited by the next generation, she said.

Government peace negotiators formed a preparation committee for the 21st-century Panglong Conference on May 31, and then went about meeting with both the groups that did sign the October ceasefire agreement and those that didn’t.

U Khin Zaw Oo, a government peace negotiator, said the timeline for the conference, which was originally set to be held in July, has been rearranged. The conference is now scheduled for before the end of August.

“We cannot obtain peace overnight or in just one day,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “However, it needs to be done fast because our country gained independence nearly 70 years ago.”

Meanwhile, at Yangon’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center, the government this week is holding a meeting of the ceasefire’s Joint Monitoring Committee. The JMC discussed a wide range of issues, including the formation of a state-level joint monitoring committee in Kayin and Mon states and Bago Region. The JMC members also started to develop work action plans for public participation in monitoring the ceasefire process.

The government is also meeting with the Delegation for Political Negotiation, a group representing a number of non-signatory groups inside the ethnic armed bloc of United Nationalities Federal Council, this week.

U Twan Zaw, general secretary of the UNFC, said yesterday that the DPN may meet with the government’s peace negotiators in Yangon this week for a preliminary meeting.

“The DPN will followup on the talks we had with government negotiators in Chiang Mai on June 3,” he said. “There’s a possibility of a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders [from non-signatory groups] on matters related to the legitimate political talks.”

U Hla Maung Shwe, a government peace negotiator, confirmed to The Myanmar Times that the meeting would take place on July 1.

The armed ethnic groups are also preparing to have an ethnic armed groups’ summit in Mai Ja Yang, a rebel stronghold located in the Kachin Independence Army’s area of control, during the second week of July.

After meeting with the state counsellor yesterday, signatory armed ethnic groups are meeting with the Tatmadaw’s Senior General Min Aung Hlaing today in Nay Pyi Taw.