Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese pro-democracy underground students and young people lent their support today to calls by the Zomi National Congress for convening a second Panglong conference.
The ZNC held its 22nd founding day ceremony on Sunday in Kalaymyo, Sagaing Division and issued its Kalay Declaration calling for the convening of a second Panglong conference for restoration of national reconciliation and establishing an inclusive federal union.
Burma Democratic Front secretary Pan Thu San, representing the alliance of seven student and youth organisations, explained the front’s reasons for its declaration of support.
“After the 2010 general election, the entire country will be enslaved by the military forever so it’s time [for the people] to show the military regime their unity by joining with all ethnic communities,” Pan Thu San told Mizzima. “We’re extending our support to this statement [Kalay Declaration] as we think it can be an outlet and solution to the current political stalemate if we can adopt a common platform.”
The Panglong Agreement was a deal reached between the Burmese government under Aung San and the Shan, Kachin and Chin peoples on February 12, 1947, which accepted in principle “Full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas” and envisioned the creation of a Kachin State by the Constituent Assembly (Burma’s first post-independence parliament). The deal came almost a year after the First Panglong Conference was held in the town of the same name in the south of Shan State.
“The Panglong conference gave its priority to equality. This second Panglong conference will be our lifeline as the current activities of the military regime do not include ethnic rights. So we extend our support to this statement as we think we should do like that”, Pan Thu San said.
The front is said to have around 700 members across the country.
The declaration calling for a fresh Panglong conference has been signed by National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders Tin Oo and Win Tin, Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) secretary Aye Thar Aung, Mon national leaders Nai Ngwe Thein and Nai Tun Thein, veteran politicians Thakin Thein Maung, Ohn Maung and Nyunt Thein and more than 50 student and youth leaders.
“We’re prepared to get signatures of top leaders. This is … preliminary groundwork for convening the second Panglong conference. This is not a signature campaign but a plea for a decision on a common position of unity, dialogue and union affairs. We agreed on these principles,” 88 Generation Students leader Phyo Min Thein told Mizzima.
Negotiations with political parties for their response to the declaration would continue after the November 7 national election polling date, he said.
“They [contesting political parties] are contesting in this election with the expectation of change. It will be easy for us to negotiate with them after they realise the election cannot bring about change,” Phyo Min Thein said.
Reportedly, more political leaders from the states and divisions will also sign the declaration.
Dr. Aye Maung, chairman of the Rakhine National Democratic Party (RNDP), which will contest in the upcoming election supported the call for convening a second Panglong conference and said that ethnic unity should have already existed.
At its founding ceremony on Sunday, the ZNC awarded its annual Hero of National Reconciliation prize to Win Tin of the NLD. The ZNC contested in the 1990 general election and won two seats. This year, it refused to re-register the party with the junta’s electoral watchdog, the Union Election Commission, citing the upcoming poll’s lack of freedom and fairness.