Hkun Okker, President of the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO) and board member of the exiled Burma Lawyers Council (BLC), speaking to Shan State leaders yesterday, urged them to keep an open mind to the call for the 21st century Panglong Conference, also known as Panglong II, by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We should take care not to rush headlong before everything’s clear,” the 64 year old lawyer-turned-rebel told the executive members of the Shan State Congress (SSC), a coalition set up in 2008 on the Thai-Burma border.
“We should wait until the aims and objectives have been clearly spelled out before we decide to go head over heels.”
He took his audience back to the 1947 situation when the Panglong Conference was held. “It wasn’t, as many have misunderstood, a meeting of representatives of ethnic groups,” he reminded them. “It was, on the contrary, a meeting of leaders of states: Burma, Federated Shan States, Kachin Hills and Chin Hills. As such, the leaders were legitimate. So were the conference and its outcome – the Panglong Agreement.”
Karen, Arakan and Mon territories were then considered parts of Burma (Proper). The Karenni aka Kayah took part in the conference only as observers.
The aims and objectives of the conference, according to him, were clear: to overthrow British rule and establish a federal democracy.
However the Agreement had a few flaws. “One, it did not say how the agreement would be implemented,” he said. “And two, while there were several leaders signing it for the Frontier Areas, there was only General Aung San to sign for Burma. That was one of the reasons why the Panglong Agreement has never been properly implemented.”
The new Panglong will therefore have a few issues to be resolved before it can be held:
- How to establish its legitimacy
- Its aims and objectives
“So far, it is not clear what the aims and objectives are,” he said. “The Lady has stated that she is not excluding the military and is not setting up a parallel parliament. But we will need more than that, if we are to throw our full support behind her.”
“If it is to establish a genuine federal union by partners of equal footing, then we should support it and work hard for it together,” he concluded.
Aung San Suu Kyi, meeting Thai journalists on 22 December, said the ethnic issue must be resolved in a Panglong-like conference, if the country was to move ahead,” reported Thai Public Broadcasting service.