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Mon party hails Panglong II, junta calls it ‘a cheap stunt’

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – All Mon Region Democracy Party, which won parliamentary seats in the election on November 7, would support calls for a second Panglong Conference, party chairman Naing Ngwe Thein has said. Meanwhile, junta mouthpieces the New Light of Myanmar and The Mirror yesterday in parallel ran a report calling such a conference “a cheap political stunt” by the opposition. 

“The Second Panglong Conference will promote equality and bring self-determination for ethnic minorities. These are ideals we have demanded,” AMDP chairman Naing Ngwe Thein said.

The Panglong Agreement was reached between the Burmese government under Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father, and the Shan, Kachin and Chin peoples on February 12, 1947. Signatories accepted in principle “Full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas” and envisioned the creation of a Kachin State by the Constituent Assembly (the first post-independence parliament).

The deal came a year after the First Panglong Conference was held in the town of the same name in the south of Shan State.

U Nu, who took over the reins of Aung San’s Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League party following the latter’s assassination in July 1947, did little to implement the Panglong compact after Burma received independence in January 1948. His failure to live up to the promise of Panglong left ethnic minorities in Burma feeling betrayed.

Since 1948, ethnic minorities have had their rights and self-determination in traditional areas of control denied, leading many of the groups to armed struggle against the Burmese military junta.

The AMDP also told US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs Joseph Yun that it would welcome the convening of a second Panglong Conference, in a meeting of the US envoy and lawmakers elected last month.

“It is in accord with our party’s policies. Then, we need to continually negotiate and conduct further talks in unison. It will promote national reconciliation to some extent,” Naing Ngwe Thein told Mizzima.

But the AMDP had failed to find a way to implement the idea to convene such a conference, he said. The party won 16 parliamentary seats in this year’s election.

“Calling for the second Panglong Conference may be a challenge to the junta. Anyway, the junta may agree to it, if there is enough political space for them. The … conference will establish true democracy and promote equality so there is no reason to reject the idea for anyone who believes in democracy”, the party chairman said.

However, the head of another ethnic minority party was not so enthusiastic. Rakhine National Development Party (RNDP) chairman Dr. Aye Maung said that although he welcomed the conference idea as it demanded equality for ethnic groups, the idea should be postponed until the time was right.

“I don’t want the idea to be fruitless. The current period is not the right time”, Dr. Aye Maung said.

A leader of Shan Nationals Democratic Party, aka the White Tiger Party, which won 59 parliamentary seats in the last month’s national elections, has also agreed that the timing was the problem.

Dr. Aye Maung said the conference idea could only be implemented if National League for Democracy general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi could successfully persuade the ruling junta to participate in bringing it to fruition. Otherwise, further ideological conflict could ensue between the MPs elected in the 1990 election and lawmakers elected this year, he added.

Zomi National Congress (ZMC) chairman Pu Chin Sian Thang on November 20 urged Suu Kyi to add to his party’s call for a second Panglong Conference to strive for racial equality and self-determination.

At their meeting on Tuesday, lawmakers elected this year told the US envoy Yun that the election on November 7 was unfair, one of the MPs-elect who attended the meeting said on the condition of anonymity.

State-run press calls Panglong II idea ‘a cheap political stunt’

Meanwhile, an article in state-run newspapers New Light of Myanmar and The Mirror said yesterday that calling for a second Panglong Conference was just a cheap political stunt by the opposition. 

The article by Banyar Aung titled “Please, don’t think politics is an easy thing” said the opposition’s idea to convene a second such conference without the army and the parties that won seats in this year’s election was just “a cheap political stunt”.

It came just a few days after Suu Kyi affirmed support for the conference idea.

The ZMC held its 22nd founding day ceremony on October 24 in Kalay Township, Sagaing Division and issued its “Kalay Declaration”, which called for the convening of a second Panglong Conference to restore national reconciliation and establish an inclusive federal union.

More than 50 people including NLD leaders, ethnic leaders, prominent politicians and student leaders signed the declaration.

Despite the state-run newspaper article, ethnic leaders and other political blocs have supported calls for the second Panglong conference.

“To create a modern nation, national reconciliation is essential. So we need to convene a second Panglong conference,” Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) secretary Aye Tha Aung said.

Pu Chin Sian Thang said, “The objective of the second Panglong Conference is to seek national reconciliation so the conference will not be one-sided. It’ll be all-inclusive … even the junta can participate.”

On November 29, Suu Kyi told Mizzima in an interview, “The purpose of the second Panglong Conference is to establish a true union spirit and as many people are participating in this process as possible would be what we are aiming towards. But this is mainly to establish a genuine spirit of union, to work for unity amongst the different ethnic nationalities of Burma”. 

When asked how she thought the junta could be involved in creating unity if there were to be such as conference, she said: “The first step towards unity is to listen. To establish unity in a country like Burma where there are many different ethnic groups, you have to listen, especially if you are in a position of power. And by listening you will hear what it is that the people want, what their aspirations are, what their hopes are, what their fears are. Once you understand this then you can start building up a foundation on which we can create unity out of diversity.”

Banyar Aung wrote that the junta could seek national reconciliation through a national convention and achieve ceasefires between the junta and ethnic armed groups.

But ZMC chairman Pu Chin Sian Thang pointed out that armed conflicts were continuing between the junta and the breakaway faction of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) in the past few weeks. He also flagged high tension between the junta and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

“Although the junta said they could establish peace, we still can see armed conflicts,” Pu Chin Sian Thang added.

The article also said that after the election, the army, political parties and ethnic minorities could hold all-inclusive meetings and so claimed that the second Panglong Conference was unnecessary.

Aye Tha Aung said: “To rebuild the nation, we need a change. To make a desirable change, we need democracy and equality. If we can discuss those things in a second Panglong Conference, our nation’s future will be rosy.”

In the article, Banyar Aung went on to say that national reconciliation could be promoted in the parliaments, and otherwise it was dangerous for the country.

Aye Tha Aung countered, saying that calling for a second Panglong Conference was just seeking national reconciliation for the sake of the country, not having a head-on confrontation with the junta.  

After 1988, the junta said that it could secure ceasefires between it and ethnic armed groups, but the ethnic groups said that the ceasefire agreements were not political agreements. 

The estimated total troops in all of the ceasefire groups’ militia combined is in the tens of thousands. Some of the ceasefire groups have rejected the junta’s Border Guard Force plan. There are also some armed ethnic groups that have never signed the junta’s ceasefire agreements, most notably the Karen National Union.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 09 December 2010 04:36 )  

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