Commemorating the International Day of Peace on Thursday, women called for an end to all military offensives in Myanmar.
Over 400 advocates gathered at the Women’s Peace Forum marched peacefully in the Karen State capital of Hpa-an on Thursday afternoon, under the theme “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”
Peace advocates and local people from Mandalay, to Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, to Kyaukme in Shan State, to Dawei in Tanintharyi Region, also observed the day.
Mu Angela, policy board member of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said that the participants urged the government and Tatmadaw to end war in the country and to have more women participate in the peace process.
WLB “strongly condemned the armed conflicts that are blocking the achievement of peace and national reconciliation,” as well as “the inter-communal violence, human rights violations, and to those who try to instigate to cause more conflicts,” read its statement on Thursday.
“We urged the government and the army to take effective action against those committing [such things],” Mu Angela told The Irrawaddy.
In its statement, WLB also said, “the continuous armed conflicts in Kachin and [northern] Shan States are obstacles in moving forward in the current fragile peace process,” highlighting the violation of civilians’ rights and widespread displacement.
Due to renewed armed conflicts between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar Army since June 2011, more than 100,000 Kachin State residents have been internally displaced, and are in need of the humanitarian assistance.
Despite efforts being dedicated to ending conflict and bringing about national reconciliation and peace, WLB said there are still clashes and inter-communal violence in some regions, referring to the northern and western parts of Myanmar.
Regarding the current crisis in northern Rakhine State, the women’s alliance called for the “better protection and safety of the civilians, especially women and children” in responding to violence in the region.
With regard to the presence of more women’s voices in the peace building process, participants from different sectors urged women to speak out, offering their support.
Yup Seng Ing, the director of Jade Land Myanmar company said, women “must always think of how we can contribute, and think of creating a space for ourselves and for others.”
Explaining how she got involved in the peace talks in recent years, the Kachin businesswoman urged fellow women “not to hesitate to offer our support,” and said, “we must be more active.”
Mai Chin Chin, from the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation and an ethnic Chin facilitator in the peace talks, told The Irrawaddy, “we have to make ourselves ready to be able to take on the roles of either making decisions or supporting with technical assistance in the upcoming peace working committees, as women’s issues are there to be discussed.”
“We will move on to achieve peace, even though the current state is in stalemate,” she said, regarding Myanmar’s peace process.
As women represent more than half of the total population in the country, it is important to have women participate in the country’s affairs in the development and peace building sector, said Mu Angela.
“In order to take part in the peace process, women not only need to be welcomed openly, we also must be keen to take part,” she said.
Nang Lwin Hnin Pwint contributed to this report from Myitkyina, Kachin State.