RANGOON – A national youth conference will be held in southern Shan State’s Panglong in late July, aiming to build unity among young people representing ethnic groups from across Burma.
Over 600 representatives from 26 ethnicities—including Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Chin, Mon, Arakanese, Shan, Dawei, Naga, Palaung (Ta’ang), Lahu, Intha, Pa’O, Danu, Burman, Taung Yoe, Akha, Wa, Kokang, Myaung Zee, Kadu, Kanan and Yaw—will gather in the town from July 27-31.
Youth from the country’s ethnic areas started the Coordination Committee for National Ethnic Youth Conference (CCNEYC) four years ago in June 2012. Before implementing the national level summit, they held an ethnic youth conference in northern Shan State in 2014.
Sai Aung Myint Oo, one of the 40 organizers with CCNEYC, told The Irrawaddy that the conference’s purpose is to form “a collective youth voice,” which could support policy development that would address pressing issues in the ethnic areas.
Participating ethnic youth organizations expect that their five-day-long gathering will yield more unified support in building a federal union in Burma.
Sai Aung Myint Oo explained that Panglong was selected as the venue because the town once hosted the historic 1947 Panglong Agreement, signed between Gen Aung San—a Burman independence leader against British colonialism—and leaders from ethnic nationalities. The Panglong pact promised equal rights across ethnic lines and greater self-determination for ethnic groups in an independent Burma.
Mai Myo Aung, another organizer who is an ethnic Ta’ang (Palaung), representing the Ta’ang Student and Youth Organization, said that building unity and better relationships between ethnic youth—through the building of a network—is key to the conference’s success.
Representatives who will be attending the conference have experience working for youth and regional development, added Mai Mai, an ethnic Kachin woman also helping to organize the event.
The conference will host panel discussions on federalism and peacebuilding with input from stakeholders and experts. Representatives from each ethnic group present will prepare and deliver papers highlighting regional issues including drug abuse, human rights violations and social concerns.