General Aung San Statue Unveiled in Kachin State Amid Controversy

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 13 February 2017

MYITKYINA — Amid opposition from both ethnic Kachin political parties and locals, a statue of Gen Aung San statue was unveiled in Kachin State capital of Myitkyina on Monday, which would have been the 102nd birthday of the late general.

The statue, on a 15-foot-high plinth, sits in the town center, and its compound covers an area of 300 sq. feet. It was built by a committee formed specifically to construct Gen Aung San statues, with the support of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

U Myat Kyaw Thu, chairman of the committee, said in his address that the statue aimed to inspire adults and students to follow in the footsteps of Gen Aung San and become upright, diligent, altruistic, and open-minded persons. In the speech, Aung San was also remembered as the architect of Burma’s independence.

Hkahku La, an ethnic Kachin man who serves as one of the patrons of the committee, told The Irrawaddy that he supported the construction of the Gen Aung San statue because the late general had spoken of the shared prosperity of all of Burma’s ethnicities together, rather than about the advancement of one ethnic group in particular.

He said that the idea of having a statue was not a new one, and had been suggested some two years ago by groups that staged demonstrations against the China-backed Myitsone dam project in Kachin State.

The Kachin Political Cooperation Committee (KPCC)—a four-member committee of Kachin political parties comprising the Kachin Democratic Party, the Kachin State Democracy Party, the Lhaovo National Unity and Development Party, and the Kachin National Congress—filed a complaint with the Kachin State chief minister on Feb. 6 regarding the statue.

KPCC spokesperson Jaw Naw Seng said that erecting the statue was unacceptable to Kachin people as long as Gen Aung San’s pledge in the 1947 Panglong Agreement—of transforming Burma into a country exemplifying federalism and equality—remains unfulfilled.

Jaw Naw Seng also spoke against the Ba La Min Htin Bridge, which crosses the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State, and which is named after an ethnic Bamar warrior. He said the bridge should be designated a different name, more closely related to Kachin heritage. Such is the case for the statue of the late general, he said, calling it a disregard for the feelings of the Kachin people.

Daw Ja Sai, a Myitkyina resident, said: “We are much in trouble amid clashes. I think these problems need to be solved first. Putting the statue downtown won’t solve our problems. On the contrary, it will result in unnecessary problems.”

One of the patrons of the committee, monk Sayadaw Ashin Pinnavamsa, said the statue has no relation to politics, and was solely constructed to commemorate the centennial birthday of the late general.

The committee said the statue compound is owned by the state government. The statue has cost an estimated 15 million kyats (US$11,000), contributed by donors and committee members.

The opening ceremony was attended by NLD officials, students and community elders. A similar statue to the one in Myitkyina was also unveiled in Kachin State’s Bhamo on Monday.

The NLD has formed committees to construct General Aung San statues in each division and state, according to party sources.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko