Friday, August 18, 2017

On Kachin State Day, activists ask govt to take larger strides for peace

As armed conflicts continue to rage close by, 5000 participants turned out to mark the 69th anniversary of Kachin State Day in Myitkyina yesterday with tensions simmering just beneath the surface of the celebrations.

Dancers perform at the 69th anniversary of Kachin State Day in Manaw Park yesterday. Photo: Supplied / Zau JatDancers perform at the 69th anniversary of Kachin State Day in Manaw Park yesterday. Photo: Supplied / Zau Jat

Kachin activists at yesterday’s Manaw Park ceremony called on the National League for Democracy-led government to do more to end the fighting.

“The essence of democracy is the participation of all concerned parties. No one should be left out of the peace process as they are a Kachin group or groups from northern Shan State because with this mindset, [the peace negotiations] will not work,” said Jaw San Naw, joint general secretary of the Kachin Democratic Party. He added that the government needs to do more to bring all ethnic armed actors into the fold.

Organisers of the anniversary celebrations in the state capital told The Myanmar Times that the attendees express a fervent wish that the armed conflicts in Kachin and Shan states would soon end.

Despite being rich in gold, jade and precious natural resources, with a beautiful environment of snow-peaked mounts and the origin of the Ayeyarwady River, the bloodline of Myanmar, armed conflicts continue to seriously undermine the development of Kachin State, President U Htin Kyaw said in a statement released yesterday.

“Because of the armed conflicts, Kachin State cannot be proud of its beauty or use its natural resources for effective development. In order to implement development projects, territorial stability and rule of law are important for their success,” he said.

“Ethnic people have known the taste of peace and are now desiring of peace. Achieving peace as soon as possible is the wish of all citizens,” U Htin Kyaw’s statement continued.

Asked of his opinions about the NLD-led government’s peace initiative since the party took office in April, Jaw San Naw said he is not satisfied with the administration’s approach.

“I think it is not doing enough. The government needs to do more to include the groups that were previously shut out by the Tatmadaw in peace talks,” he said.

Ethnic peace advocates, activists and politicians have increasingly criticised the NLD-led administration for staying relatively silent about the ongoing offensives in ethnic states. The administration’s efforts to negotiate with the armed ethnic groups currently at war with the Tatmadaw have not so far been successful.

Kachin activists yesterday called on the NLD-led government to reconsider its peace approach, and to include more of the armed ethnic groups in the process.

Daw Nang Pu, a Kachin women’s rights activist from the state capital who participated in yesterday’s anniversary event, said President U Htin Kyaw’s message of peace runs counter to the situation on the ground.

“While the president is calling for cooperation in the government’s peace efforts, there are military offensives occurring in Kachin and northern Shan states led by the government’s armed forces. Even members of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signatory groups have been arrested. How are people supposed to believe them when they say that they want peace?” she said.

In his Kachin State Day message, President U Htin Kyaw said now is the right time to end the decades-long armed struggle, and called for cooperation in his administrations peace efforts.

The government peace negotiators’ overtures to the members of the Northern Alliance have so far failed, hampered by disagreements as to the composition of the talks. The Kachin Independence Army is one of the four members of the alliance.

The National Reconciliation and Peace Center yesterday called on international and domestic donors to help financially support the peace process.