Ethnic leaders have met with released opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi in a bid to reignite a major push for autonomy for Burma’s myriad ethnic groups.
The convening of a second Panglong Conference more than 60 years after the historic 1947 meeting has been made a priority by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which until its dissolution earlier this year had been the strongest opposition to the majority Burman junta.
Suu Kyi was accompanied on Monday by senior members of the NLD, including deputy Tin Oo and elder Win Tin, at the party’s Rangoon headquarters, where she met with key figures from various ethnic groups in Burma.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi discussed the particulars of convening a 21st Century Panglong Conference, and how to…bring more unity and confidence among all ethnicities,” said Tin Oo.
Also present were members of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Zomi National Congress leader Pu Cint Sian Than, Htaung Co Thang of Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP), as well as Nai Ngwe Thein, chairman of the Mon National League for Democracy party, and Thar Bann from the Arakan League for Democracy.
It was Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, who as the head of Burma’s interim government in 1947 brought together Shan, Chin and Kachin leaders to discuss autonomy, but then as part of a wider push for independence from British rule.
Aung San however was killed later that year and no further progress on ethnic rights was made. Around 135 minority groups live in Burma, predominantly in the country’s volatile border regions which have hosted decades-long conflicts against the ruling junta.
Tin Oo said that Suu Kyi’s tabling of “Panglong 2”, as it’s come to be known, was welcomed by the participants at the meeting, who would reconvene at the weekend for a wider discussion.