In search of Pan­g­long’s prom­ise

The Myanmar Times - - News - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com

CON­VENED in Fe­bru­ary 1947, the orig­i­nal Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence is of­ten feted as a uni­fy­ing of “Burma proper” with the na­tion’s “frontier ar­eas”, the former pri­mar­ily the do­main of the Ba­mar ma­jor­ity and the lat­ter home to a plethora of eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

The con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants – Ba­mar leader Bo­gyoke Aung San and eth­nic Chin, Kachin and Shan lead­ers – were seek­ing to ex­pe­dite in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish colo­nial rule and lay the ground­work for a fu­ture na­tion, one which would share power with the dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups.

Its out­come, the sign­ing of the Pan­g­long Agree­ment, had this pro­vi­sion at its core: “Full au­ton­omy in in­ter­nal ad­min­is­tra­tion for the Frontier Ar­eas is ac­cepted in prin­ci­ple.”

The “Spirit of Pan­g­long” was never re­alised, how­ever. Bo­gyoke Aung San was as­sas­si­nated the year of the agree­ment’s sign­ing, and a 1962 mil­i­tary coup all but as­sured his ef­fort to bridge the eth­nic di­vide fal­tered.

The coup’s or­ches­tra­tor, Gen­eral Ne Win, made his own at­tempt to unify the in­creas­ingly frac­tured na­tion, but the talks ended in fail­ure.

In 1993, the State Peace and De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil made an­other pass, but as a ma­jor of­fen­sive against the KNU from 2005 to 2008 and the break­down of a Tat­madawKIA cease­fire in June 2011 at­test, the prom­ise of Pan­g­long has never truly been ful­filled.

Just two months af­ter the Kachin con­flict re­sumed, then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein made his own ap­peal to Myan­mar’s eth­nic armed groups.

The out­reach worked – to an ex­tent. His peace push ar­guably cul­mi­nated in Oc­to­ber 2015, when eight non-state armed groups signed a na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment. How­ever, about a dozen oth­ers de­clined to sign on to the ac­cord or were left off the list of el­i­gi­ble sig­na­to­ries.

With U Thein Sein’s gov­ern­ment trans­fer­ring power to the Na­tional League for Democ­racy at the end of March of this year, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as­sumed full re­spon­si­bil­ity for steer­ing the peace process. In April, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the daugh­ter of Bo­gyoke Aung San, wil­fully shoul­dered the bur­den of Pan­g­long’s legacy, call­ing for a “21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence”.

That con­fer­ence con­venes to­mor­row, with the weight of the 1947 ac­cord, decades of eth­nic griev­ances and suf­fer­ing, and high ex­pec­ta­tions con­verg­ing on Nay Pyi Taw.

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