KIA Chief Demands Myanmar Shadow Govt Commitment to Federal Democracy

By The Irrawaddy 14 February 2022

The Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) chief has urged Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) to commit to implementing the 1947 Panglong Agreement and establishing a federal democracy.

The ethnically Kachin armed group has been fighting the military regime since soon after last year’s coup alongside the people’s defense forces that are allied to the NUG.

Addressing an online event to mark the 75th Union Day on Saturday, the KIA’s chief of staff, General Gam Shawng Gunhtang, said responsibility rests with the NUG to fulfill the unrealized promises made in the Panglong Agreement.

The public holiday marks the anniversary of the 1947 Panglong Conference, which was held ahead of independence from Britain.

The signatories included General Aung San, the independence leader, and the leaders of various ethnic minorities, including a Kachin representative, who agreed to join the Union of Burma in exchange for federal autonomy.

The deal offered ethnic minorities the possibility of seceding from the union if they were dissatisfied with the new nation.

But the assassination of Gen. Aung San before independence and a military coup in 1962 crushed the promises made at Panglong.

Since last year’s coup, the KIA has been fighting for greater autonomy. Early this month, General N’Ban La, chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization, the KIA’s political wing, urged all groups fighting the junta to support the NUG.

Made up of elected lawmakers from the National League for Democracy (NLD) and their ethnic allies, the NUG was formed as the legitimate government after the coup to challenge the regime’s legitimacy at home and abroad. The parallel government has promised to form the federal, democratic union that ethnic armed groups have been demanding.

Gen Gam Shawng Gunhtang told the event: “[The event] organized by the NUG aims to establish democracy, equality and self-determination, which are the very essence of the Panglong Agreement. The event matches the spirit of Union Day. It is important to realize not only the essence of the Panglong Agreement but also the Panglong promises made between the leaders to unify [the country] as a union.”

The general said shared objectives were key for the revolution’s success and that the NUG must rally revolutionary groups that share a vision.

The KIA boycotted the junta’s Union Day event and its preliminary peace talks which the regime said were intended to establish a permanent settlement.

Gen Gam Shawng Gunhtang said the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conferences, initiated under the NLD government, had ended with the military coup. Ethnic minorities needed to leave the peace conferences behind and move forward, he said.

The Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability, student unions from Mon and Karen states and Tanintharyi Region, strike committees, the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, Burmese Women’s Alliance, Democratic Party for a New Society and Kachin Political Interim Coordination Team sent messages to the NUG’s event.

Representatives from 24 countries, including France, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Croatia, Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the US, Ghana, Belgium, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Australia and South Korea attended the online event, according to the NUG. Three of the countries sent messages in a step towards official recognition.

You may also like these stories:

Myanmar Junta’s Prisoner Amnesty: No Political Dissidents Released

Myanmar Junta Announces Union Day Prisoner Amnesty

Silent Strike: A Quiet Display of Power From Myanmar’s People