Myanmar's many ethnic groups have used the 70th anniversary of the Panglong Agreement to revive an unfulfilled promise of the accord: equality for all within a federal democratic union.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi attended the anniversary celebrations, known as Union Day in Myanmar, in Panglong town in southern Shan State on Feb. 12 where her father and ethnic group leaders signed the unfulfilled peace deal in 1947.
Manam Tu Ja, chairman of the Kachin State Democracy Party in Kachin State, said it is the right time to unify the government, military, political parties and the public in order to build peace.
"To have unity, equality and self-determination, the Panglong Agreement must be implemented so that we can together build up a federal democratic union," Tu Ja, a former Kachin Independence Organization leader, told ucanews.com.
He said that the 21st Century Panglong Conference, initiated by Suu Kyi in 2016, appears to be on the right track but the leadership needs to find alternative ways to include ethnic armed groups who are yet to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement and join the second Panglong conference, penciled for March.
"To achieve peace is an opportunity and a duty. I want you all to take this chance effectively," Aung San Suu Kyi said in here Union Day speech on Feb. 12.
She requested all ethnic groups who have not yet signed the ceasefire "to sign with bravery and self-confidence."
Suu Kyi's government has pledged to prioritize peace in the country which has suffered civil wars in ever since the country gained independence from Britain in 1948. Her father, General Aung San oversaw the Panglong Agreement that covered issues related to self-autonomy and federalism with the Kachin, Shan and Chin ethnic groups in 1947 but the deal was never fulfilled. After the 1947 conference Aung San was assassinated and ethnic groups took up arms against the central government.
Suu Kyi convened the 21st Century Panglong Conference in August 2016 and brought almost all ethnic armed groups together.
Yet peace remains elusive as sporadic fighting still continues in Kachin and in northern Shan State. Suu Kyi has been criticized for not speaking out against heavy offensives by the military in Kachin State in recent months.
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