Take Statue Down by March 17 or We Will, Activists Warn Kayah Gov’t

By Lawi Weng 13 March 2019

Karenni activists have given the Kayah State government until March 17 to remove a statue of General Aung San that was put up in a park in Loikaw over the objections of many residents, according to local sources.

The activists sent a letter to the state government yesterday saying that if the government failed to remove it by that date, they would do it themselves with the help of local residents.

“The construction of the statue has hurt national reconciliation. Therefore, in order to solve the problem we ask the state government to remove it by the deadline we have provided,” the letter reads.

“We will not let our Karenni history die because of the Gen. Aung San statue. We stand by our earlier request [to remove the statue],” it continues.

Rights activists specifically appealed to Kayah State Chief Minister U L Phaung Sho and Deputy Planning and Finance Minister U Maw Maw, who have been accused of masterminding the statue plan.

The state government has not replied to the letter, the rights activists said.

Following a major anti-statue protest in Loikaw on Feb. 12, the government agreed to activists’ request to meet with a committee of government supporters responsible for implementing the construction of the statue. The meeting was held the same day, but ended without any agreement being reached after the anti-statue contingent gave the committee a month to remove the statue.

That was a month ago Tuesday, but the government has so far ignored the anti-statue activists’ demands.

“We cannot yet discuss our plans for removing the statue. We will issue a detailed plan after March 17,” said Khun Thomas, a spokesperson for the local activists.

“The government is responsible for solving this problem, but they let a group of people do it instead. This is not a good way to solve the problem,” he said.

“If they do not resolve this problem, any future problems will be the responsibility of the Union and state governments,” Khun Thomas added.

Activists have already begun recruiting local people to participate in future protests against the statue. Local authorities have responded by warning that they will take action against any protesters, he said.

When asked for comment on the activists’ letter by The Irrawaddy, Kayah State Deputy Ministry of Planning and Finance U Maw Maw said he was in a meeting and was unable to comment.