During her visit to the Kachin State capital last week, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi participated in a controversial commemoration of Kachin State Day on January 10, after meeting with members of civil society the day before.
The de-facto head of state met with leaders of Kachin Christian organizations, political parties, and culture groups at the Palm Spring hotel in Myitkyina on January 9. In the meeting, she urged ethnic armed organizations to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government and military.
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is among the majority of armed groups in the country not a signatory to the accord.
“[Aung San Suu Kyi] talked about peace and policies in building a federal democratic country… people also want peace and a federal democratic Union,” Labang Gam Awng, who works with the Kachin National Advisory Group, told KNG.
The State Counsellor also held a public meeting at Myitkyina City Hall. In the evening, she separately met officials from the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC).
KBC chairperson Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson said that a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the Burma Army and the KIA would be a major factor in facilitating the return of Kachin people internally displaced by civil war (IDPs).
“To get this done, the Tatmadaw needs to accept the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the four members of the Northern Alliance at the same time… After that, different organizations can discuss their policies. Then IDPs can return home safely,” Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson said of the message that was delivered to Aung San Suu Kyi during the meeting on Thursday.
KBC representatives also told the State Counsellor that Christian organizations want to reclaim their land that was seized by the military government once headed by Gen Ne Win.
On the commemoration of Kachin State Day on January 10, Aung San Suu Kyi participated in a traditional Manau dance. She also delivered a speech to onlookers, which included state and Union ministers and members of the public. Her statement referenced the Panglong Agreement, which was signed prior to Burma’s independence and promised equality to Burma’s ethnic communities.
“The formation of Kachin State was based on the Panglong principles… Some people have said that ‘Panglong starts from Kachin.’ Representatives agreed in this land and brought their agreement to Panglong. Then they signed the Panglong Agreement,” Aung San Suu Kyi said in her speech.
Kachin State’s chief minister read a letter from Burmese President Win Myint during the ceremony, which was organized by the Kachin State government.
Disputes surrounding the name of the event—whether it should be declared in Kachin or Burmese language—meant that many civil society organizations, particularly those belonging to Kachin sub-groups, opted not to participate or attend.
The event was finally referred to as Jinghpaw Mungdaw Nhtoi in the Kachin Jinghpaw language and in the Burmese translation of Kachin State Day in Myitkyina. Other commemorations were held in Hpakant and Bhamo.
Kachin people also displayed the Kachin flags at their homes to mark the day.