Friday, February 12, 2010

Union of Burma remains a dream, as civil war rages

Friday, 12 February 2010 22:02 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Today is the 63rd anniversary of the Panlong Agreement, which envisaged a Union of Burma promising equality among all ethnic people in the hills and plains.

But the Union that the architects of the Independence struggle wanted is yet to take shape. Instead civil war rages. Now, the ruling military regime is promising incentives to the ethnic people by way of autonomous rights in its 2008 constitution.

The provisions in the 2008 constitution are quite contrary to the historical Panlong Agreement which was signed on 12 February 1947, some ethnic leaders and National League for Democracy (NLD) party said.

The Zomi National Congress (ZNC) Chairman Pu Tsian Cing Thang said, "The Union must provide for equality among all ethnic people without discrimination but in the 2008 constitution, there is not a single provision which can guarantee the rights of ethnic people so it cannot be called a Union".

In democratic countries, members of armed forces, who wish to join politics, must resign from military posts, but in Burma, the 2008 constitution allows Burmese Army personnel to join politics in uniform. It is ridiculous, he said.

He referred to Article (6) Basic Principles, sub-article 6(f) (of 2008 Constitution) which says 'enabling the Defence Services to be able to participate in national political leadership role of the State.’

Similarly the 'Ethnic Nationalities Council' (ENC) in exile, Joint Secretary Salai Sui Khar said that the 2008 constitution does not guarantee autonomous rights and equality agreed and mentioned in paragraph 5 and 7 of the Panlong Agreement that ethnic people aspire for.

NLD party spokesman Ohn Kyaing said that successive governments of AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League), BSPP (Burma Socialist Programme Party), SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) and ruling SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) have ignored the Panlong Agreement but the undemocratic provisions are included in the 2008 constitution. These have to amend.

"The Panlong Agreement reportedly had nine points. The main point was there has to be equality among all ethnic people. It guaranteed freedom of religion and self-determination in local States and Divisions," he said.

On 12 February 1947, Bogyoke (General) Aung San got together with Shan, Kachin, Chin ethnic leaders to have a Union and signed the historical Panlong agreement in Panlong, Shan State.

But junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe refused to recognize the efforts of national leaders in the independence struggle in his message sent to today's Union Day celebrations. He chose to emphasize the proposed general election this year.

Burma's democrats pointed out that holding elections within the framework of the 2008 constitution, which will only legitimize military continuance and will not guarantee equal rights to the ethnic people, cannot stop the raging civil war.