Request for Dialogue Over Loikaw Activists’ Grievances

By Lawi Weng 8 February 2019

A Lower House lawmaker has requested for the Karenni state government to negotiate with rights activists in order to solve problems in the region, following the arrest of ten more rights activists in Loikaw on Friday morning, according to local sources.

Khun Thomas, a rights activist who has been charged three times for his participation in recent protests in Loikaw over the installation of a bronze statue of Gen. Aung San, told The Irrawaddy about the fresh arrests.

“They were arrested and are being detained at the police station. We don’t know yet what type of charges they will face or whether they will be released on bail,” said Khun Thomas.

On Thursday evening, 36 activists were arrested and released on bail later that night. Six of those who were released were among those detained again this morning, along with four additional activists, when they resumed their protest.

Police arrested the activists in front of the local NLD office where they had been holding a protest camp since Sunday.

On Friday, a number of right activists met the Karenni State parliament house speaker U Hla Htwe in order to voice their concerns. They requested for negotiations to be held in order to discuss the issues regarding the statue.

Friday’s arrests bring the total number of arrests over the issue to 68.

“Their actions may lead to the fall the state as more problems will come,” said Khun Thomas.

The Karenni National Progressive Party on Friday sent an open letter to President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi decrying the actions of the Karenni state government.

The letter said the actions of the state government threaten the stability of the region and the safety of the local people. They may also cause challenges to peace and rule of law in the region, it said.

The letter also says that the NLD had promised to build a government that would listen to the voices of the people during their election campaign but that instead their actions have shown a misuse of power and refusals to listen to the people.

Request for negotiation

Lower House lawmaker of Loikaw Township Daw Khin Sithu has urged the state government to negotiate with the protesters in order to solve the problem.

She told The Irrawaddy that before she entered politics, she worked with some of the right activists while Myanmar was ruled by the military regime and that during that time, they took part in Martyr’s Day events commemorating Gen. Aung San even though such events were forbidden then.

She said the activists are not acting out of spite for Gen. Aung San, but in order to have their voices heard.

“They were the people who distributed letters about Gen. Aung San in our area even though it caused them difficulties as it was prohibited by the military and they had to hide to avoid arrest,” said Daw Khin Sithu.

Our country is working towards democracy and a federal system and in order to achieve that, we all need to recognize historical ethnic leaders as well as Gen. Aung San, she said.

I don’t mean we shouldn’t build Gen. Aung San statues in ethnic states—I want to say it’s time to pay respect to both and if we honor historical leaders from ethnic groups, then we will be more accepting of Gen. Aung San statues.

She cited President U Win Myint’s request for the state government to work in cooperation with the people during his visit to Karenni State last month.

“The local government is losing dignity even though it seems to be winning,” she said.

I want to make it clear that I do not want the Karenni state government to go down in history as a bad government, she said.