The Union Peace Conference - the 21st century Panglong - is supposed to be held every six month according to the agreed framework for political dialogue. It has been already 8 months passed since the last conference was held in May, 2017. It is still uncertain when the third one can be held. There are important challenges needed to be resolved first before the next conference.
One of the main reasons that impedes the holding of the 3rd Union Peace Conference has to do with disagreement over issue of the national-level dialogue, especially the Shan national dialogue. In November, 2017, the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM), the highest decision-making body for peace process, mandated the holding of the Shan national dialogue at Larng Khur Town, Shan State. The collective leaderships of the Shan under the leadership of RCSS undertook the preparations necessary for the implementation of their national dialogue starting with public consultations at many townships across Shan State. However, the organizing of public consultations in some Shan townships were interrupted and blocked by the security forces. This prohibition of the public consultations prompted the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) to halt their preparations for Shan national dialogue. On January 8, 2018, RCSS issued a statement announcing their decision to temporarily postpone their national dialogue, which was originally scheduled for 12-14 January, 2018. Still, no progress is made as to when the Shan national dialogue actually will be held.
As a matter of fact, the convening of the 3rd Union peace conference is conditioned on whether RCSS can organize the Shan national-level dialogue. Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), the top decision-making body, for 8 ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that signed NCA – known as NCA-S EAOs- convened its meeting on 11-12 January, in Chiangmai, Thailand. PPST reviewed all challenges and obstacles including the Shan national level dialogue. The leaderships of PPST concluded that the holding of a Shan national dialogue is compulsory before convening the 3rd Union Peace Conference. The first point of their four-point public statement clearly spelled out their common position saying, “The 3rd Union Peace Conference (21st century Panglong) shall be convened only after carrying out series of political dialogue related undertakings.” Strict interpretation of the PPST`s firm position here is that they would not convene the 3rd Union Peace Conference without holding the Shan national dialogue first.
In order to raise the shared concerns of NCA-S EAOs for the current peace process and to discuss their willingness to hammer out a common approach to break any potential impasse facing the ongoing peace process, PPST proposed a high-level meeting with the concerned parties, the Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in particular. This top-level meeting with the Commander-in-Chief would be led by General Mutu Say Poe, Chairman of PPST and KNU. The exact date and time for this top-level meeting is still under discussion.
As it stands, the fate of the anticipated 3rd Union Peace Conference (21st Century Panglong) seems to be dependent fully on the outcome of this planned top-level meeting.