Ethnic leader: Unless charter is amended, ethnic identity will be in peril

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 | S.H.A.N

Hkun Okker, Chairman of the PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO), speaking at the closing ceremony of the 11th batch of the Shan State Social Justice Education Programme training on Sunday, 29 January, said the identities of Burma’s multi-ethnic peoples hang in the balance as long as the country’s latest constitution which is “of the military, by the military, for the military” is not amended or jettisoned.

“Read the preamble and you will find the word ‘oneness’,” he told the 30 students graduating from the school set up by one of Shans’ foremost women activists Charm Tong. “It means the regime continues to aim for one nation, one country and one single identity and there is no room for multi-nationalities.”

He offered the newly adopted national flag as an example. “No country practicing federalism uses a one-star flag, which denotes oneness. But all the authoritarian states like Vietnam and North Korea have one-star flags.”

Hkun Okker, 66, also regarded by non-Burman ethnic peoples as one of their leading legal experts, told SHAN his PNLO delegation will be meeting U Aung Min, Naypyitaw’s peace envoy, early next month, along with at least 4 other opposition movements: Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) and Democratic Party for New Society (DPNS).

That has not deterred him from giving the nominally civilian government together with other opposition movements and “some countries” a piece of his mind. “Cosmetic changes by President Thein Sein government have created confusions both at home and abroad. The policy shift by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD (National League for Democracy) has also added fuel to the flame. As a result some countries are prematurely lifting sanctions and some foreign aid agencies including the ODA (Official Development Assistance) are preparing to re-enter the country.”

He strongly criticized the ongoing peace talks and agreements emanating from them as a “quick fix” to solve what is primarily a political issue between the Burman government and the non-Burman ethnic peoples. “They are generously offering business opportunities under the name of Development or Special Economic Zones and using them as delaying tactics against meaningful political dialogue,” he charged.

“This is because they want a quiet rather than peaceful Burma before the 2013 SEA Games, the 2014 Asean Summit and the next round of elections in 2015.”

So far, Naypyitaw has successfully negotiated ceasefire agreements with 7 armed groups: United Wa State Army (UWSA), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), Chin National Front (CNF), Karen National Union (KNU) and Shan State Progress Party (SSPP).

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