Pub­lic out­pour­ing of sup­port for Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - PHOTO: NAING WYNN HTOON

Just days be­fore the linch­pin of the gov­ern­ment’s peace process kicks off, civil so­ci­ety groups, dis­placed per­sons and com­mu­nity ac­tivists turned out in Yan­gon and in Man­dalay Re­gion’s Mo­gok to demon­strate sup­port.

CROWDS gath­ered in Yan­gon and Mo­gok yes­ter­day to demon­strate pub­lic sup­port for the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, slated for later this week.

Hun­dreds of res­i­dents joined the ac­tiv­i­ties at Ma­ha­ban­doola Park in down­town Yan­gon yes­ter­day, mak­ing it the largest such gath­er­ing so far in the coun­try’s biggest city. The six hour­long event in­cluded po­etry recita­tions, singing and speeches.

In Mo­gok, Man­dalay Re­gion, the 300 at­ten­dees in­cluded dis­placed fam­i­lies from Kachin State, civil so­ci­ety groups and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Lisu Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Party, the Ta’ang (Palaung) Na­tional Party and the Shan Nationalities Demo­cratic Party.

“There are eth­nic armed groups sur­round­ing within a 50-mile [80kilo­me­tre] area of Mo­gok dis­trict. Refugees come of­ten to Mo­gok when there are clashes,” Ko Soe Htay, the Mo­gok event or­gan­iser, said. “Refugee chil­dren are los­ing their fu­ture and their ed­u­ca­tion. If we can cease fight­ing through this Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence then we can re­duce money spent on fight­ing and in­stead in­vest it in sec­tors ben­e­fi­cial for de­vel­op­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.”

He added that a true res­o­lu­tion from the con­fer­ence would en­tail more than just an agree­ment on pa­per, and would be in­clu­sive of all eth­nic groups.

Li Tha Min, a Lisu na­tional who took part in yes­ter­day’s wel­com­ing event, said he hopes the con­fer­ence re­sults in bet­ter con­di­tions for dis­placed fam­i­lies.

“I ar­rived just five months ago at the refugee camp in Mo­gok town­ship. I fled to Mo­gok due to fight­ing be­tween the Tat­madaw and the Kachin, and the Tat­madaw and the Palaung in Momeik. I didn’t take any­thing from home. So I have to beg from peo­ple to eat,” he said.

“I want to live in peace. I have suf­fered from the fight­ing. That’s why I par­tic­i­pated in the sup­port event.”

Ko Tay Zar Htun, one of the youth or­gan­is­ers lead­ing the Ma­ha­ban­doola Park event, said the gath­er­ing had been in the works for a month, and that Kyauk­tada town­ship of­fi­cials had granted per­mis­sion.

“We sup­port Mother Suu and we want the peace con­fer­ence led by her to be suc­cess­ful,” he said.

The 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, as the Na­tional League for Democ­racy has dubbed its cen­tral peace ne­go­ti­a­tion, will con­vene in Nay Pyi Taw start­ing on Au­gust 31.

The five-day long con­fer­ence does not in­clude a for­mal role for CSOs or civil­ians, who have in­stead been in­structed to sub­mit let­ters to the participants prior to the event.

“There are wars hap­pen­ing all over the coun­try and we don’t want that. What we want is peace so we are de­liv­er­ing that mes­sage through these lo­cal gath­er­ings,” said Ma Thet Hter Oo, one of the vol­un­teers at Ma­ha­ban­doola Park.

Photo: Kyaw Ko Ko

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of po­lit­i­cal par­ties, eth­nic groups and CSOs march in Mo­gok yes­ter­day in sup­port of the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence.

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