Youth Groups Plan Marches, Concerts to Mark International Day of Peace.
By Naomi Gingold & Saw Yan Naing 18 September 2013
RANGOON — An umbrella organization for youth-led civil society groups across Rangoon is planning a march from City Hall to the People’s Park on Saturday, the International Day of Peace.
Saturday’s all-day event will also involve readings, games, traditional dance, music and celebrity performances—centered on the theme of peace and national reconciliation, at the park. More events tied to the International Day of Peace, including a rock concert, are planned by different groups for Sunday and Monday.
Peace Loving People, a collection of over 50 groups whose work targets everything from gay rights to democracy capacity building and ethnic women’s issues, will use this year’s event to call for a national reconciliation convention.
Lead organizer Moe Thway said it is hoped Saturday’s events will build on the momentum and push for a national convention, one of the main goals to come out of August’s Silver Jubilee Memorial of the 8-8-88 Democracy uprising.
Speaking after a recent plenary meeting, Moe Thway said that the country’s youth are frustrated by the prolonged fighting in the country.
“We have everything,” he said, citing Burma’s plentiful natural and human resources. “But we spend our time, our lives, our money and our resources on this f—ing crazy civil war. We kill each other, and no one gets anything. If we cannot stop this civil war in our age, the civil war will stop everything [in] our future.”
Moe Thway is also the President and co-founder of Generation Wave, a youth activist group known for using music, graffiti and other forms of activism to demonstrate against Burma’s government.
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Last year, as many as 2,000 people joined an event in Rangoon to mark the International Day of Peace. The event ended with criminal charges against several of the organizers for violating section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law, which requires official permission for public gatherings.
Moe Thway has now appeared in court 130 times and still faces 10 charges from last year’s events.
This year, authorities have encouraged the organizers to apply for permits, promising them that if they apply officially, they will receive permission, Moe Thway said. Organizers have received positive feedback about the event from as high up as the President’s Office, but are still negotiating for the actual permits.
“We just want to organize a public movement for peace,” he says. “We don’t want to break the law.”
However, if permits do not come through, Moe Thway insists the planned events will go ahead.
The people will act like a mirror to the government, he says. “If they smile, we will smile.”
Moe Thway, himself a rock musician, has even written and released a song titled “The Whole Nation Reconcile,” the official slogan of Saturday’s events.
“Everybody who loves peace can join us,” says Moe Thway.
The events at People’s Park will start at 9 a.m. and will last until 6 p.m. People who want to participate in the march will start gathering at City Hall at 11 a.m., and the march will begin at noon.
Also marking the International Day of Peace this weekend, another group of youth peace advocates and musicians will hold a rally Sunday and a concert Monday featuring well-known rock singers Zaw Win Htut and Mee Mee Khel, and Reggae musician Saw Phoe Khwar.
Fanny Rockman, a Karen singer who is an organizer for the upcoming peace concert said the events were not political.
“We are not doing politics. We are doing it for peace,” she said. “We can individually initiate the peace with feeling from our hearts. This is our dream. We can make our dream come true.”
She said that young peace advocates will march Sunday and deliver stickers with peace logos to the public and paint messages of peace onsigns. The peace concert will be held at the National Theater on Monday evening.
“Our country is starved of peace,” said Saw Phoe Khwar. “The country is not peaceful, not because of war alone, but also national and religious-based conflicts. Peace will prevail if we all have peace in our hearts.”
The peace advocates will donate the proceeds of the concert to the war-affected people in the countryside, including in Kachin State. They plan to travel to Kachin State—where fighting between the government and ethnic Kachin fighters have recently clashed—to share their music with government troops and provide them with guitars.
“We also want to show how much the youth get involved in the peace process. What can make hearts melt is music. That’s why we initiated the peace concert,” said Lin Htet, another organizer.