Authorities Block Kachin National Conference

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 16 February 2017

MYITKYINA, Kachin State — Authorities blocked the first Kachin National Conference on Thursday morning at Myitkyina’s Manaw Park in Kachin State.

Lawmaker and conference participant Ja Seng Hkawn Maran told The Irrawaddy that about 100 local police arrived before the conference was due to start at 8:30am and blocked access to Majoi Hall and park entrances.

The Kachin National Consultative Assembly had sought to conduct two-day consultations at Majoi Hall ahead of the Union Peace Conference later this month, but the Kachin State government turned down their request to use the facilities on Wednesday.

About 300 people—including politicians and CSO representatives—are currently being held inside the park, Ja Seng Hkawn Maran said.

“The entrances to the park are blocked as the Kachin State government will not allow the meeting,” Ja Seng Hkawn Maran said.

He added that the conference organizing committee was holding a meeting, while other participants waited.

Some 500 people from Kachin and Shan states as well as Rangoon and Mandalay divisions were invited to join the conference.

“From amongst them, we will select about 100 representatives to present the collective voices from different sectors at the forthcoming 21st Century Panglong,” said secretary of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly Labang Gam Awng, referring to the upcoming peace conference organized by the government.

The consultation is expected to reflect public sentiment on the implementation of the “Panglong promises” of the famed 1947 agreement toward ethnic equality and federalism, said Ja Seng Hkawn Maran, a Kachin State parliamentarian representing Injangyang Constituency.

“Our Union was born with the Panglong Agreement, but as the Panglong promises are not yet fulfilled, war has been waged across our nation,” she said.

Ja Seng Hkawn Maran said that, by invoking the name of the 1947 agreement, the peace process should be continued in the spirit of the first Panglong. About 700 delegates from the government, ethnic armed groups, political parties, and civil society groups are expected to attend the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference which is slated to begin Feb. 28.