Naypyidaw Blocks Peacebuilding Forum in Karenni State

By Zarni Mann 18 February 2016

MANDALAY — A community peacebuilding forum scheduled for Thursday in Loikaw, the Karenni State capital, was halted by local authorities who said that the President’s Office in Naypyidaw had not given permission to hold the event.

Organizers told The Irrawaddy that a request to hold the forum was submitted to the local administration weeks ago, but that the authorities had only informed them about the rejection of their application on Wednesday evening.

“They didn’t issue a letter, but met with the organizers personally at the state government office and said the forum could not be held due to an order from the President’s Office,” said Htoo Chit, director of the Foundation for Education Development, one of the forum’s facilitators.

“The authorities even told the organizers that there might be big problems if the forum were to continue without permission, so we had to hold back,” he added.

Since news of the prohibition came late to those in Loikaw, the organizers had to apologize to the forum’s audience, invitees and panelists who came to participate in the event on Thursday morning.

The two-day session, supported by USAID, was intended to foster community-based peacebuilding. Local civil society groups, ethnic armed organizations, political parties, local authorities and international observers had planned to discuss Burma’s ongoing peace process and current military clashes.

“I wonder why the President’s Office denied permission to such a forum, which could help [create] sustainable peace and stability in the country. I feel they are going backward toward an unstable situation,” said Htoo Chit.

“We are not sure when the forum could be held again in Kayah [Karenni] State, however, we will find another way,” he added.