The Irrawaddy

Naga Youth Oppose Aung San Statue in Sagaing

MANDALAY — Amid criticism over the erection of a statue of the late General Aung San in the ethnic region, Naga youth from Khamti, Sagaing Region issued a statement to show their opposition to the statue bring built in their town.

The statement issued by the Council of Naga Affairs and dated July 7 said that the committee to erect the statue did not first seek the opinion of Naga people or youth.

“Instead of emphasizing the promise of General Aung San, erecting statues of the late general without consulting ethnic minorities is just a symbol of Burmese supremacy,” said the statement released by Council of Naga Affairs, which was founded by Naga University students to support the welfare of Naga youth.

The Naga youth also said in the statement that building Gen Aung San statues across the country was the opposition of reconciliation and unity in parts of the country where ethnic minorities fear the loss of their dignity and culture.

The statement then urged the Naga people living in Khamti region not to join in erecting the statue or attending the opening ceremony scheduled for July 21.

“We would like to urge the Naga people not to attend the ceremony, especially not with Naga costumes,” said the statement, which circulated to the Naga Literature and Cultural Association, which said it did not agree with this view.

“The statement did not comply with our opinion. We’ve told the Naga people here to make their own decisions and we’ve given no instructions regarding the ceremony,” said U Aung Htet, the president of the Naga Literature and Culture Association, based in Khamti. “The statement did not represent us, the Naga people here in Khamti, by far.”

Khamti, located in the upper region of Sagaing Region, is the closest region to the Naga hills, where about 40 percent of the population is Naga.

According to the committee to build the statue of Gen Aung San in Khamti, Naga and other ethnic leaders from Khamti were included in the decision making and it does not understand why the Naga youth issued the statement.

“There were no disagreements when we formed this committee and had discussions a year ago. There were Naga elders who participated,” explained U Pho San, the treasurer of the committee.

The committee told The Irrawaddy that the opposition only arose when the bronze statue of General Aung San riding a horse arrived in Khamti in July.

“The council is from Yangon and it seems they didn’t know the reality in Khamti,” he said.

Although the statement of the Council of Naga Affairs showed its disagreement, the committee said it would hold the opening ceremony as planned.

“Since there are no official complaints and the regional and local governments have already agreed, we will reveal the statue as planned,” he added.