Union-Level Officials to Meet Karenni Anti-Statue Activists This Week

By Lawi Weng 18 March 2019

Rights activists in Karenni State will meet Union government officials on Wednesday to negotiate their demand that a statue of General Aung San be removed from a park in Loikaw, the Kayah State capital, local sources said.

Union President’s Office director U Zaw Htay requested a meeting with the right activists during a phone call on March 15, according to Khun Thomas, a spokesperson for the activists.

“He [U Zaw Htay] told me that we will try to find a solution as soon as possible. So he requested that we not hold any protests on March 17,” Khun Thomas said.

The President’s Office and rights activists both said they would confirm on Tuesday the number and identities of those who will attend the talks, according to the activists. The meeting is likely to be held in either Naypyitaw or Yangon, they said.

The rights activists said they had accepted U Zaw Htay’s invitation and agreed to suspend their protest activities. They said they would ask the Union government to remove the statue, and intend to maintain their current stand.

“We will try our best to make the negotiations succeed. If we do not get what we want, we will use ‘people power’ to remove the statue by ourselves,” Khun Thomas said.

In a letter sent to the state government on March 12, Karenni activists gave the Kayah State government until March 17 to remove the statue, which was put up over the objections of many local residents. They warned that if the state government failed to remove it by that date, they would do it themselves with the help of local residents.

The state government has not replied to the letter.

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