Row stoked by omis­sion of rank from name cards

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­times.com

CON­TRO­VERSY swirled this week over the print­ing of name cards for at­ten­dees of a prepara­tory com­mit­tee meet­ing ahead of the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, as lead­ers of eth­nic armed groups were not enu­mer­ated along with their mil­i­tary rank, in con­trast to their Tat­madaw coun­ter­parts.

Gen­eral Gun Maw of the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army posted pho­tos on so­cial me­dia of the name cards for him­self and Gen­eral Sai Htoo of the Shan State Pro­gres­sive Party, which did not in­clude the ranks of their re­spec­tive armed group lead­ers in front of their names. Eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties quickly be­gan shar­ing the post and ques­tion­ing how Tat­madaw of­fi­cers’ name cards were writ­ten.

Pho­tos of Tat­madaw rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ name cards at the meet­ing were later cir­cu­lated, list­ing Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tin Maung Win, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Khin Zaw Oo and other rank­ing of­fi­cers at the joint prepara­tory com­mit­tee meet­ing held Au­gust 29 at Thin­gaha Ho­tel in Nay Pyi Taw.

Athong Makury, pres­i­dent of the Coun­cil of Naga Af­fairs, said the omis­sion was “de­mean­ing” to the lead­ers of eth­nic armed groups.

“So sad to see this,” he added. “If this is the type of ‘Pan­g­long Spirit’ the mil­i­tary sub­scribes to, it is no way to reach a place of peace.”

In a state­ment yes­ter­day, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions said given the con­fer­ence’s his­toric sig­nif­i­cance, ac­knowl­edg­ing the ranks and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of eth­nic armed groups’ lead­ers was part of the peace-mak­ing process as well as a de­sir­able ges­ture of po­lit­i­cal ac­com­mo­da­tion. Fail­ing to ac­cord the eth­nic lead­ers their ranks was con­trary to the spirit of equal­ity and mu­tual re­spect among Myan­mar’s eth­nic groups that was the em­bod­i­ment of the “Pan­g­long Spirit”, the state­ment added.

The Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­ter and mem­bers of the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence’s joint or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee were un­avail­able for com­ment yes­ter­day.

To­day’s open­ing cer­e­mony and five days of talks to fol­low were called by State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who in April in­voked the orig­i­nal 1947 Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence in de­scrib­ing her de­sire to hold a mod­ern ver­sion of the his­toric gather­ing in Shan State. The 1947 meet­ing in­volved Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s fa­ther, Bo­gyoke Aung San, and eth­nic Chin, Kachin and Shan rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

An ac­cord on au­ton­omy that they reached in Fe­bru­ary of that year is still widely praised for the “Pan­g­long Spirit” of re­spect and com­pro­mise that sig­na­to­ries agreed would un­der­pin an in­de­pen­dent Burma.

Sai Aung Myint Oo, a Shan youth leader, said the name-card rank omis­sions were an af­front to that spirit.

“It was an ac­tion that calls into ques­tion the [is­sues of] equal­ity and re­spect,” he said. “The armed groups have been rep­re­sent­ing whole eth­nic groups and pro­tect­ing their own eth­nic peo­ple for about five decades. It is a form of un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour on the path of the peace process and na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

Kachin youth Lah­pai Zau La said if con­fer­ence or­gan­is­ers were un­will­ing to print eth­nic armed group lead­ers’ ranks, cards fea­tur­ing their fam­ily names might be enough to ap­pease crit­ics.

“Even if they don’t want to men­tion the po­si­tion of eth­nic lead­ers, they should ad­dress them in a po­lite way, like putting the fam­ily name in front of a given name, like Gun Maw. If they put ‘Sum­lut Gun Maw’, that would be ap­pro­pri­ate. We have many Gun Maws. It’s rude [not to do so],” he said.

“I hope they will re­alise and fix it,” he added.

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