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