February 12 marks 57th Anniversary of Union Day in Burma

On this date in 1947, the Panglong (Pinlon) Agreement was signed between Burma’s national leader, U Aung San, and the patriotic ethnic nationality leaders for self-administration and self-determination. This agreement upheld the principle of national solidarity and unity among the peoples of Burma and the country eventually declared independence from British colonial rule. The leaders designated February 12 as “Union Day of Burma”.

However, after the assassination of U Aung San in July 1947 the nation was beset with unrest. The military staged a coup de etat in 1962 as an excuse to control the country’s political and economic instability. The Burmese Army headed by General Ne Win rekindled the flames of civil war
and peace could not be found in any corner of Burma. With the civil war raging throughout the country and the army looking only after itself, Burma soon lost its prestige and remains one of the ten poorest countries in the world today.

In commemorating “Union Day of Burma”, the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils) believes that as long as a military dictatorship rules Burma, the country cannot achieve genuine peace, democracy, human rights and national harmony.

FBC-Phils expresses its solidarity with the true leaders of Burma by rejecting the road map unveiled in August by the ruling military government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as part of the junta’s public relations campaign after it took opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi into detention.

Instead, we support the road map established by the ethnic groups entitled, “Rebuilding the Union of Burma”. This alternative road map calls for a tri-partite dialogue among the military, ethnic and opposition leaders, an interim government and a legitimate National Convention. Part and parcel of this roadmap are the demands for a nationwide ceasefire and the release of all political prisoners in Burma, especially the pro-democracy opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

We see that the ethnic peoples’ road map emphasizes dialogue before the formation of a national convention, in contrast to the SPDC road map which forms a national convention as the first step to democracy. But
participation of the NLD and the conditions Suu Kyi is under will be critical to the credibility of the convention. In fact, the SPDC map does not offer a clear time frame for the democratic process to begin.

FBC-Phils. therefore calls on the Philippine government, as a democratic state and member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to work hand in hand with the international community in seeking effective and sustainable means to achieve true and lasting peace, justice, democracy and independence in Burma.

We ask the Philippine government and the ASEAN members to demand confidence-building measures from the junta to start off democratic reforms. The release of NLD leader Suu Kyi and all political prisoners,
the cessation of Burmese army attacks on the ethnic groups along the Thai border, and a nationwide ceasefire will be conditions that will encourage dialogue.

The Panglong (Pinlon) agreement signed 57 years ago today upheld the principle of national solidarity and unity among the peoples of Burma. This process of achieving unity on basic issues starts with dialogue. We say, let the conditions for dialogue first develop in Burma.

Free Suu Kyi and all political prisoners!
Participation for NLD and the ethnic peoples!

Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils.) is a coalition of organizations based in the Philippines working for peace, justice and democracy as part of Burma’s global campaign and advocacy. It is co-convened by the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID). The Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and other FBC-Phils. member-organizations conduct consciousness-raising activities in Manila
and the provinces. For solidarity and support, FBC can be reached at the IID office (02) 435-2900 or (02) 911-0205, contact Malou L. Manrique/ Myra Torres.

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