Youth Representatives Dissatisfied with Peace Talk with State Counselor

By Tin Htet Paing 2 January 2017

RANGOON — Youth representatives who participated in a “peace talk” with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw on Sunday said the discussion was “not satisfactory” and stressed that time was limited.

Eighteen youth representatives from 11 states and divisions except Kachin, Karenni and Chin states participated in an hour-long discussion on the theme of peace. The participants were members of the committee for national youth policy, and two delegates representing the Myanmar Women’s Federation and persons with disabilities, respectively.

Ma Thida Hlaing, a Rangoon representative who was involved with the National Youth Policy drafting committee, said the talk was very broad.

“Delegates were not able to focus on one specific issue regarding the topic of peace,” she said.

“Time was also very limited and not every delegate had the chance to participate in the discussion.”

The youth representatives shared their concerns and expectations on the peace process and exchanged views on building trust between armed groups and communities.

During the talk, one of the participants, Nang Mwe Hseing, a 34-year-old delegate representing Northern Shan State, raised the issue of ongoing civil war and recent airstrikes conducted by the Burma Army. She said the military should be under the control of the government in order to achieve ceasefire and peace.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told participants that amending the constitution and implementing federalism were some of her National League for Democracy party’s main electoral pledges and the government was seeking an appropriate approach that would not harm the public.

“Such an approach needs more time,” she said.

Regarding the State Counselor’s answers on critical questions about ongoing fighting raised by ethnic representatives, Ma Thida Hlaing said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi responded in a “diplomatic way” and her answers had “layers.”

Nang Mwe Hseing, however, thinks that the indirect responses are hard for people from ethnic areas to understand, as their local dialects are not Burmese and many people are unfamiliar with technical terminology surrounding the peace process.

“People from regions like mine will not easily understand what she said in the discussion as her words are quite [scholarly],” she told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

She also reflected that improvements were needed from all sides of the discussion; it was the first time speaking in such a forum for many of the youth representatives and many prepared in a rush.

She told The Irrawaddy that the youth delegates requested the government meet with military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and hold a similar discussion.

The State Counselor said she planned to host similar discussions with other groups of young people.

“In order to allow all of the people to participate in the peace process, it is necessary for us to know how people view peace and what goals they set for addressing challenges and problems,” she said at the discussion.

Ma Shin Thant, a trans woman who participated in the talk to represent the LGBT community, said the discussion was like a soccer match in which the youth could only score a few goals against the State Counselor’s excellent goalkeeping.