Many of the participants at yesterday’s rally in Rangoon were not ethnic people but rather local pro-military activists masquerading in ethnic costumes, according to representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) who spoke to DVB.
The claims came after thousands of people – many dressed in traditional ethnic costumes – marched in the streets of the former capital on Monday, chanting and delivering messages of support for the Tatmadaw (Burmese army) in its campaign against ethnic rebels in northern Shan State.
The rally, which included military marching anthems played on loudspeakers, was joined by some former MPs from the previous military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party-led government. The march was called after the Tatmadaw was reported to have captured several strongholds of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Waingmaw Township.
Hostilities have been fierce in northern Shan State since 20 November, when the KIA, accompanied by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army, launched synchronised attacks on Burmese military and police outposts near Muse.
The Kachin Youth Organisation (KYO) has released a statement claiming some of yesterday’s pro-military demonstrators who appeared in Kachin national dress were not real Kachin people. It condemned the protest organisers for creating the false impression that Kachin people were supporting the Burmese army in the on-going conflict against the four ethnic militias, now collectively known as the Northern Alliance.
“Those who wear traditional Kachin attire can tell when someone is not familiar with it,” said Zaw Ba, the chairperson of the KYO. “We spoke to our colleagues in Rangoon and they said the Kachin-dressed protestors were not all Kachin people.
“This is very undignified and could create misunderstandings with other ethnic groups, leading them to thinking we support the military offensive in Kachin State,” he added.
The KYO chairman said his group supports the on-going peace efforts led by Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and it called on all warring parties to resolve their issues at the negotiation table.
Likewise, a representative of the Shan Literature and Culture Association, based in state capital Taunggyi, said that those pictured at the rally in traditional Shan costume were not Shan people.
“I think the intention behind this rally was to create a false image,” said executive member Nang Nwan Mo. “We can tell that the marchers in Shan attire are not really Shan, just by observing the way they wore the gaung-baung (headpiece). They looked ridiculous to anyone familiar with Shan dress!”