Mai Ja Yang sum­mit tack­les struc­ture of fed­eral Union

Par­tic­i­pants in the con­fer­ence of ma­jor eth­nic armed groups ar­gued yes­ter­day for es­chew­ing the state and re­gion sys­tem in favour of switch­ing to all states, de­fined by ma­jor­ity eth­nic group­ings.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

HYPOTHESISED state di­vi­sions that should make up the fed­eral Union yes­ter­day dom­i­nated dis­cus­sions at the sec­ond day of the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit, a ma­jor gath­er­ing of eth­nic armed groups in Kachin State.

Par­tic­i­pants seemed to agree that state lines should be de­mar­cated by ma­jor eth­nic group­ings.

“For ex­am­ple, in Shan State, Shan are the dom­i­nant and largest pop­u­la­tion. So the state should be re­garded as the Shan Na­tional State,” said U Oo Hla Saw, who is at­tend­ing the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Na­tion­al­i­ties Broth­er­hood Fed­er­a­tion, an al­liance of eth­nic po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

While the coun­try’s cur­rent seven states – Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan – should be kept un­changed as states of spe­cific na­tion­als, the other seven re­gions should be changed so they are also “states of na­tion­al­i­ties”, ac­cord­ing to the par­tic­i­pants.

“The as­sump­tion is that in Aye­yarwady Re­gion, eth­nic Kayin, Mon, Ba­mar and Rakhine com­prised the largest share of the pop­u­la­tion. So the re­gion should be re­garded as a na­tional state be­cause we can­not rank it as a Mon or a Shan or a Rakhine State alone,” said Daw Saw Mra Razar Lin, a cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the Arakan Lib­er­a­tion Party. “This is the kind of out­look that should be un­der­ly­ing the fu­ture fed­eral Union,” she said.

Con­cern­ing the Ba­mar ma­jor­ity, Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Karen Na­tional Union, said there should be a Ba­mar state. One sug­ges­tion was that two re­gions, Tanintharyi and Aye­yarwady, could be­come the Ba­mar states.

“For ex­am­ple, in Tanintharyi, there is no ma­jor­ity eth­nic group in the re­gion. There are Dawei, Ba­mar, Mon and Kayin. Since there are many eth­nic groups, the state should be called ‘Tanintharyi State of Na­tion­al­i­ties’,” said Naing Han Thar, deputy leader of the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil and a se­nior of­fi­cial of the New Mon State Party.

Par­tic­i­pants said the cur­rent “mixup” of some states and some re­gions was con­fus­ing, and so the fed­eral Union, much promised by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Na­tional League for Democ­racy, should be a more uni­form col­lec­tion of states.

The eight-state prin­ci­ple – dubbed as such for the plan to di­vide the coun­try into eight states based on the Ba­mar, Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan eth­nic­i­ties – springs from Bo­gyoke Aung San’s prom­ise to eth­nic lead­ers of “fron­tier ar­eas” while he was try­ing to unify the coun­try’s eth­nic groups ahead of in­de­pen­dence.

To se­cure the as­sis­tance of the eth­nic lead­ers, Bo­gyoke Aung San once fa­mously said, “If a Ba­mar re­ceives one kyat, you will also re­ceive one kyat.”

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors viewed the idea put for­ward yes­ter­day as “quite im­prac­ti­cal”.

U Oo Hla Saw said some par­tic­i­pants ex­pressed their con­cerns and dis­sent on the idea, say­ing the dis­cus­sions were just con­sid­er­a­tions for the fu­ture.

The sum­mit par­tic­i­pants also dis­cussed char­ac­ter­is­tics they see as es­sen­tial for a fu­ture fed­eral Union, in­clud­ing sovereignty, equal­ity, self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, pro­tec­tion of eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups’ rights, demo­cratic and hu­man rights, and gen­der equal­ity.

Many par­tic­i­pants agreed that the state leg­is­la­tures should be given ab­so­lute au­ton­omy, ac­cord­ing to Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win.

“Many peo­ple agreed that states should have their own con­sti­tu­tions. They should also have the right to de­ter­mine their path for them­selves. States should be granted the in­de­pen­dence to en­act laws suit­able for them,” he said.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day, Pado Naw Zip­po­rah Sein, Karen Na­tional Union vice chair, said a draft of the form of a fed­eral Union had been drawn up for sub­mis­sion and re­view. “We can ex­change views and reach con­sen­sus on the ba­sic fed­eral prin­ci­ples for the fu­ture build­ing of a fed­eral demo­cratic Union drawn up by the Fed­eral Con­sti­tu­tion Draft­ing and Co­or­di­nat­ing Com­mit­tee [FCDCC] and the pro­pos­als made by the United Na­tion­al­i­ties Fed­eral Coun­cil in 2015,” she said.

She also said that some armed eth­nic or­gan­i­sa­tions’ goals of sign­ing the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment and at­tend­ing the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue had not been met. “Con­trary to the prin­ci­ples set forth at the Laiza and Law Khee Lar sum­mits, the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment dis­crim­i­nated against some eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions and fight­ing has per­sisted,” she said.

The de­lay ham­pered the eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions’ strides to­ward unity, she said. De­spite the armed groups’ po­si­tion that all groups should be al­lowed to join the NCA, only 15 groups were in­vited to the sign­ing last year, ex­clud­ing some groups ac­tu­ally fight­ing the Tat­madaw.

Eth­nic armed groups who had signed last Oc­to­ber’s NCA, as well as those that did not sign, are at­tend­ing the Mai Ja Yang sum­mit, along with civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The aim of the meet­ing is to pre­pare for the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence and to find com­mon ground for a fu­ture fed­eral Union. The sum­mit will run through July 29.

PHOTO: ZARNI PHYO

Photo: Zarni Phyo

Lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous eth­nic armed groups gather for the four-day sum­mit in Mai Ja Yang, Kachin State, yes­ter­day.

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