Panglong II requires further touches, military on board

Monday, 27 December 2010 21:33 Mizzima News
New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Zomi National Congress on October 24 launched an appeal in its Kalaymyo Declaration for the convening of a second Panglong conference to iron out the status of ethnic groups within the framework of federal union. The declaration essentially seeks to echo the atmosphere and work surrounding the initial Panglong Agreement of 1947, which was never successfully implemented during ensuing periods of democratic or authoritarian rule.

Kalaymyo-junctionMotorists circle a statue of King Maha Bandoola in Kalay Township in Sagaing Division, where the Kalaymyo Declaration was made on October 24. It calls for national reconciliation and a second Panglong Conference to guarantee ethnic groups in Burma equality and the right to self-determination. Photo: Mizzima

The call has met with positive reception from a number of groups, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which is now tasked with the implementation of the project. However, as well intentioned as the goals of a Panglong II may be, questions must be asked of the utility in pursuing the project with regard to its current parameters.

Critically, the military is not on board with the declaration’s objectives. While the door appears to be left ajar in case they decide to join, there also appears precious little energy being expended to make a Panglong II an attractive proposition for the Burmese military to support. And, without the support of the military, the principle antagonist confronting ethnic opposition demands, any fruits borne from a Panglong II will carry minimal effect on policy.

Moreover, the basis for a Panglong II stands in direct refutation of the 2008 constitution and ensuing 2010 general election, denying the legitimacy of both. Clearly, the central government, drawing legitimacy from both the constitution and the election, is not going to support the initiative as currently envisioned. As such, a Panglong II, operating outside of the legal fold, essentially demands parties choose between rival and antagonistic contestants to political power. 

With Burma’s debilitative political atmosphere already long polarised, a proposition that asks participants to choose stark political sides is not what is needed to assist in traversing the treacherous path of national reconciliation.

Instead of pushing forward with a Panglong II as presently encapsulated, all parties would be wise to first step back and ask what is necessary for any such conference to have any practical effect on developments inside Burma, as opposed to becoming yet another unenforceable demand to be paraded in front of the international community.

Without doubt, the military will need to be a vital contributor. Moreover, the process will need to be conducted within the sphere of recognised legal political action. Otherwise, a Panglong II – whether deemed justified or not – will come to be interpreted by those outside the endeavour as but another threat to the unity of the country and the legitimacy of its government.

In the end, though a Panglong II inclusive solely of like-minded parties and organisations would assuredly be less contentious and far simpler in production, it would also assuredly mitigate any meaningful contribution that may be forthcoming from its convening.


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