Ethnic Issues

Planned Aung San Statue in Chin State Scrapped

By Lawi Weng 25 June 2019

Local authorities in Htantlang, Chin State, have withdrawn plans to build a controversial statue of General Aung San.

Ram Khar, chairman of Htantlang’s Municipal Affairs Committee, told The Irrawaddy his committee has withdrawn plans to build the statue in the face of local opposition.

When the committee asked for and received 30 million kyats (US$19,730) from the state government to build the statue early last year, local Chin civil society groups opposed it. They wanted the money used for other municipal purposes, like roads.

“We’ve got the budget already to build it, but local people protested it,” Ram Khar said. “We informed the state government, but it’s ultimately our decision on the ground. Therefore, we decided to build a new park.”

The new park will cover 5 acres.

Gen. Aung San led the country’s independence from Britain before being assassinated by factions within his own movement. Before his death, he had promised minority ethnic groups autonomy, for which many are still fighting.

Some ethnic rights activists say they have their own history and ethnic leaders to honor and see the Gen. Aung San statues as symbols of ongoing ethnic Burmese dominance. To many, it’s also a symbol of what they see as the yet-unfulfilled promises of Gen. Aung, officially made in the Panglong Agreement of 1947.

“We want the government to implement the promises of Gen. Aung San, but not his statue,” said Van Thawng, a Chin State lawmaker from Htantlang Township.

If someone wanted to donate money for a statue, Ram Khar said, the committee would build it, but they will not build it with public money.

The change of plans marks the first time an ethnic community has successfully fought the raising of a Gen. Aung San statue—others have already been erected in Mon, Kayah, and Kachin states and in Sagaing Region, despite local ethnic opposition—and it could yet prove an example in Kayah State, where Karenni activists are still protesting for the removal of a statue in the state capital of Loikaw.

Gen. Aung San is the father of current State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party has led the civilian government since landslide election wins in 2016.

Ethnic communities across the country have been eagerly watching the NLD government since, waiting to see if Gen. Aung San’s original Panglong promises will finally be implemented.

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