Paletwa ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute reignited af­ter Pan­g­long sum­mit

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­

CHIN politi­cians are fu­ri­ous af­ter the head of a na­tion­al­ist party in neigh­bour­ing Rakhine State re­opened an old ter­ri­to­rial feud amid strides for eth­nic unity.

Dur­ing the Eth­nic Youth Con­fer­ence in Pan­g­long, Shan State, at the end of July, U Aye Maung, chair of the Arakan Na­tional Party (ANP), de­liv­ered a con­tentious his­tory of Paletwa, a bor­der re­gion on the Kal­adan River claimed by both the Chin and the Rakhine. U Aye Maung ap­peared to be im­ply­ing that the dis­puted ter­ri­tory right­fully be­longs to the Rakhine, and was re­al­lo­cated in the wake of in­de­pen­dence.

“Our hill track Paletwa be­came Chin ter­ri­tory only in 1953-54 un­der the Anti-Fas­cist Peo­ple’s Free­dom League [Hpa Hsa Pa La],” he said dur­ing a speech about the fed­eral Union.

Eth­nic Chin youth quickly re­buked the ANP leader for re-en­flam­ing the long-sim­mer­ing spat and de­manded a re­trac­tion. On July 31, the Chin youth pub­lished a state­ment con­demn­ing the re­marks and any at­tempt to reignite old ter­ri­tory squab­bles be­tween eth­nic groups as the carv­ing-out of a fed­eral Union is re-ex­am­ined within the frame­work of peace ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“We want him [U Aye Maung] to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for his re­marks,” said Salai Robert Thawng Ling, a Chin eth­nic youth par­tic­i­pant. “Bring­ing up a con­tro­ver­sial ter­ri­to­rial affair could spark con­flict be­tween the two eth­nic groups.’’

Af­ter the com­ments also pro­voked up­roar on so­cial me­dia, on Au­gust 2 the Chin League for Democ­racy party re­leased an al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tive on the Chin’s his­tor­i­cal ties to Paletwa.

Pre­ced­ing Bri­tish colo­nial rule, the Chin peo­ple resided in the area known as Paletwa, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment. Then, un­der Bri­tish oc­cu­pa­tion, Paletwa was con­sid­ered a Chin hill sta­tion, dat­ing back to 1896.

The Chin party said it will re­buke any­one who refers to Paletwa as a part, or for­mer part, of Rakhine State.

“The Chin peo­ple are the orig­i­nal own­ers of Paletwa, ac­cord­ing to the laws of 1896, 1947, 1974 and 2008,” said Chin League for Democ­racy chair Ngai Sak, who also called on the ANP to stop spread­ing pro­pa­ganda.

“Now is the time for try­ing to be united. Some things should not be said with­out con­sid­er­ing the con­se­quences first. It could cause mis­un­der­stand­ing be­tween eth­nic groups,” he said.

Both the re­cent Pan­g­long youth meet and the si­mul­ta­ne­ously held Mai Ja Yang eth­nic armed group sum­mit con­cluded with calls for unity and al­liance among eth­nic groups in the lead-up to the cor­ner­stone of the gov­ern­ment’s peace process. The 21stcen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence is slated for the end of this month.

When pressed about his re­marks, U Aye Maung of­fered fur­ther ev­i­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate his point. The 1947 con­sti­tu­tion, part 5, specif­i­cally ad­dressed a spe­cial divi­sion for the Chin peo­ple, com­prised of the hill districts and the Arakan hill tracts, as to be de­ter­mined by the pres­i­dent, he said.

“We need to dig into the real his­tory to un­der­stand, and must ac­cept both the good and the bad ex­am­ples as lessons if we want to form a real fed­eral Union to­gether,” he said.

“I am not ask­ing the Chin to give it back to Rakhine,” he added.

Paletwa, home to just un­der 65,000 res­i­dents ac­cord­ing to cen­sus data, is among the most im­pov­er­ished town­ships in Chin State.

Photo: EPA

U Aye Maung, chair of the Arakan Na­tional Party, at­tends the first day of the new par­lia­ment ses­sion in Sit­twe, Rakhine State, on Fe­bru­ary 8.

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