The first Kachin National Conference will be held on Thursday and Friday in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, to bring together the collective voices of ethnic Kachin representatives from across Burma.
Members of the Kachin community had planned to hold the consultation at the traditional Manaw Park’s Majoi Hall, but the authorities turned down their request to use the facilities.
“The government said they would not allow anyone to use the Majoi Hall—not only us—but the gathering for the public consultation will proceed,” said Labang Gam Awng, the secretary of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly.
Some 500 people from Kachin and Shan states and Rangoon and Mandalay divisions have been 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 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.
By invoking the name of the 1947 agreement in the upcoming 21st Century Panglong Conference scheduled to begin within a month, Ja Seng Hkawn Maran said that the event should be continued in the spirit of the first Panglong.
“Only when the public desires are implemented, can we reach the peaceful, tranquil, united and developed nation that we all hope to achieve,” she explained.
As the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, have not yet signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), a national level dialogue led by the KIA could not be held. Since January, public consultations by the NCA signatories and the government have been held as national level dialogues in Karen, Shan and Chin states, as well as in Yangon, Mandalay, Irrawaddy, Tennasserim, Magwe, and Bago divisions.
In an effort to provide a forum for the Kachin to express their perspectives on peace, the idea for the Kachin National Conference was born.
“We are holding this consultation so that whoever the representatives are, they can present our recommendations for each sector [at the upcoming peace conference], said Labang Gam Awng. The sectors to be discussed include those involving politics, economics, social issues, security, land and the environment.
A civil society forum, held as a parallel discussion to the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, will also be held later this month in Naypyidaw.