Burma

Myanmar State Counselor Tells Crowd in Taunggyi She Hopes to See Peace in Her Lifetime

By San Yamin Aung 20 November 2019

TAUNGGYI, Shan State—Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told hundreds of Shan State residents on Tuesday that she would like to see peace take hold in the country within her lifetime.

“As all know, we have been trying to achieve internal peace for decades since independence [in 1948]. We want to extinguish the flames of civil war in our generation. We don’t want to leave this burden to future generations,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said at the city hall in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State.

Her remarks came at a time when the country’s peace process is stalled. For all her government’s vows to strike peace deals with all ethnic armed groups, that goal still seems a distant dream, as fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar military in northern Shan State and between the Arakan Army (AA) and the military in Rakhine State has intensified this year, displacing thousands of local people from their homes. Nearly half of the country’s active armed groups, including the TNLA and AA, have refused to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, despite the government’s efforts to persuade them to do so in order to achieve peace and hold a national dialogue.

Peace talks with the Northern Alliance—a coalition of ethnic armed groups including the TNLA, the Kachin Independence Army, the AA and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—were supposed to convene in October but have been delayed.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said some have questioned the likelihood of achieving peace in the near future, as many stumbling blocks and difficulties exist. In response, the State Counselor urged those people to look at Taunggyi. She cited the city as an example of a place where people from a variety of ethnicities and with different religious beliefs live together in peace and harmony.

“The belief that this was possible was due to a region like Taunggyi. But we must put in efforts. We need to face and overcome the challenges together,” she said. “Only then can success be achieved quickly. Before we die, we want to see the roots of peace firmly entrenched.”

Shan State has a population of more than 5.8 million, accounting for 11.3 percent of the total population of Myanmar. It is home to many ethnicities including Shan, Pa-O, Danu, Lisu, Intha, Akha, Lahu, Ta’ang, Taungyo and Bamar, according to the 2014 census. The state is also home to a number of ethnic armed groups, most of which have signed ceasefire agreements.

The State Counselor called on the audience to adopt a sense of personal responsibility for achieving peace and development.

“All the people also need to have the thought that our country must achieve peace and development during our lifetime.”

More than 900 local ethnic people from across Shan State gathered in and outside of the city hall on Tuesday to listen to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech. The meeting was also attended by Union ministers, state government officials, lawmakers, some civil society groups and local authorities.

The trip marks her third visit to Shan State this year. In February and October she visited Tachileik, Mong Yawng and Naung Shwe.

At the meeting on Tuesday, about 10 locals asked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi questions regarding the village electrification program, the return of confiscated lands, the master plan on flooding and drainage of water in Taunggyi, road upgrades, the conservation of Inle Lake and lawsuits filed by the military against local residents. The State Counselor answered questions along with state and Union ministers.

U Phyo Min Htike, Taunggyi township administrator, said local residents submitted 104 complaint letters to the State Counselor on Tuesday.

“Local residents including myself were glad to see and hear what the Union government is doing from the state leader directly,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended a religious donation ceremony hosted by ethnic Pa-O leader U Aung Kham Hti in Kyauk Talone Gyi subtownship in Shan State.

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