Youth eth­nic al­liance emerges after sum­mit

The Myanmar Times - - News -

A MA­JOR new na­tional eth­nic youth al­liance has been formed this week with its first vow be­ing to en­sure the in­clu­sion of young peo­ple in the forth­com­ing 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence – de­spite gov­ern­ment chiefs’ at­tempts to dis­miss them.

The an­nounce­ment comes after around 800 youth del­e­gates from across the coun­try gath­ered at the site of the his­toric 1947 Pan­g­long agree­ment for the past week to dis­cuss peace, fed­er­al­ism and eth­nic mi­nor­ity rights.

Or­gan­is­ers of the Eth­nic Youth Con­fer­ence, which con­cluded yes­ter­day, told The Myan­mar Times that if the gov­ern­ment would not al­low the youth con­tin­gent a ded­i­cated seat at the ta­ble, they would lobby eth­nic armed groups, civil so­ci­ety groups and politi­cians.

Min Naung Htaw, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Mon del­e­ga­tion, said, “We are not sure yet whether our de­sire to be in­volved will be ful­filled or not, but we will find a way by ap­proach­ing the eth­nic lead­ers and the MPs.”

Last-minute at­tempts by the gov­ern­ment to halt the Eth­nic Youth Con­fer­ence were ig­nored by or­gan­is­ers who pushed ahead re­gard­less. But speak­ing at the time, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral for the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice U Zaw Htay sug­gested the young del­e­gates were wast­ing their time. “The gov­ern­ment will not take into ac­count their rec­om­men­da­tions be­cause it al­ready has plans for the par­tic­i­pa­tion of civil so­ci­ety groups in the peace process,” he said.

But the lead­ers of the new youth al­liance in­sisted on their right to be in­volved.

Kyaw Min Htike, a Dawei eth­nic youth rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said, “We youths are the fu­ture of this coun­try. The gov­ern­ment should cre­ate a path­way for young peo­ple in the po­lit­i­cal sec­tor to have a role in form­ing a bet­ter coun­try.”

The much-her­alded 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, due to take place at the end of this month, will see 700 rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the gov­ern­ment, par­lia­ment, the Tat­madaw, eth­nic armed groups, po­lit­i­cal par­ties, eth­nic rep­re­sen­ta­tives and a small “other rel­e­vant rep­re­sen­ta­tives” con­tin­gent come to­gether in a bid to reach an agree­ment to end the coun­try’s long-running civil war.

While cam­paign­ers have called for a quota of fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tives to be in­stated, the is­sue of youth rep­re­sen­ta­tion has largely gone undis­cussed. By far the ma­jor­ity of those who will at­tend the event tipped as so cru­cial to the coun­try’s fu­ture will be older men.

Or­gan­is­ers of the Eth­nic Youth Con­fer­ence, which ran for six days with del­e­gates from dozens of dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups in at­ten­dance, said another key res­o­lu­tion from the event was a uni­fied demand for the im­me­di­ate ces­sa­tion of ma­jor busi­ness projects in­volv­ing nat­u­ral re­sources in con­flict zones.

“When we an­a­lysed the causes of con­flict, nat­u­ral re­sources were seen to be one of the prin­ci­pal is­sues,” said Khun Oo, a Pa-O eth­nic spokesper­son for the new Na­tional Eth­nic Youth Al­liance.

“Any big nat­u­ral re­source projects must in­volve trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity and should not be al­lowed to be­gin un­til peace has been achieved,” he added.

While con­sen­sus was reached on what would be a pos­i­tive step to­ward achiev­ing peace, the youth del­e­gates were un­able to gain agree­ment on another key con­fer­ence topic – how a fed­eral Union should look. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives said the new al­liance would con­tinue to dis­cuss the is­sue.

Or­gan­is­ers said that the new al­liance would com­prise rep­re­sen­ta­tives of at least 26 dif­fer­ent eth­nic mi­nori­ties, with more ex­pected to come on board.

“We or­gan­ised a his­toric event that showed big unity among the eth­nic peo­ple in the spirit of the 1947 Pan­g­long Agree­ment. We are proud of it and we will con­tinue work­ing for the fed­eral Union we dream of,” said Khun Oo.

Photo: Fiona MacGre­gor

Del­e­gates at the Eth­nic Youth Con­fer­ence in Pan­g­long pose for a photo.

FIONA MACGRE­GOR

THU THU AUNG

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