PHOTO: Phoe Khwar
PHOTO: Phoe Khwar

When we were very very small, before we had even learned to read, we loved to listen to the tales grandpa or teachers told us. As far as ‘Unity’ is concerned, they told us a story about an old man and a bundle of sticks.
“Once upon a time, there was an old man who was troubled because his sons were always quarrelling. He was afraid that the family would be quite broken up when he died. So one day, he called his sons together and showed them a bundle of sticks, and asked them to break it. They tried in turn but they failed. Then the old man untied the bundle and told them to break each stick. The sons broke the sticks easily. In this way, he taught them that UNITY IS STRENGTH.”
The story is very short and very simple. However, it shows the essence of unity that has to be conveyed to generation by generation. The story, indeed, is and will be true for a country like Myanmar which is home to over one hundred national races.
Besides, when we were in the primary standards, teachers usually told about the great French general, Napoleon, who used to say, “Divide and Conquer”. He won victories by attacking one of his enemies when alone before the others could come up to help. He would weaken a whole nation by dividing it up into quarrelling parties. The lesson that we have learned is “United we stand, divided we fall”.
Now, we are going to celebrate the 73rd. Anniversary Union Day. Actually, Union Day is the symbol of unity which is the strength of all the nationalities. Every year in February, whenever the Union Day draws near, one cannot but help calling to mind the past events leading to the signing of the Panglong Agreement.
A look into history reveals that the people of this republic have lived in harmony and unity, sharing joys and sorrows, in weal or woe, despite subjugation and hardship under foreign rule and in time of war. Myanmar’s feudal history saw her indigenous peoples caught in the iron grip of feudal forces, too strong for them to repel or reform. Besides, under the imperialist yoke, our history also recorded that all the national races of Myanmar had far lagged behind.
In the history of Myanmar, successive Myanamr kings had made efforts for perpetuation of the Union, sovereignty and national solidarity and gave guidance on the national development. There were a lot of examples that indicated unity among people and would bring peace and stability. In Myanmar, we saw victories during the reign of King Anawrahta and again during the reign of Bayintnaung, King Alaungpaya and Hsinbyushin when Myanmar people were united.
However, due to the three aggressive wars launched by the imperialists, the colonialists practised the ‘divide-and-rule’ policy. The policy caused misunderstanding among national brethren, shattering the national unity. They ruled the highlands and the mainland separately to sow discord among the notianal brethren. In the time of need, our national brethren who had great patriotic spirit joined hands each other to fight back the colonialists.
However, their struggles, due to the lack of systematic leadership, were nipped in the bud. In such a time, a group of patriotic and educated youths led by Bogyoke Aung San emerged to fight and drive the imperilists out of Myanmar Soil with the help of fascists. However, the trouble was not over.
After giving us a pseudo independence, the fascists showed their true type of barbaric acts. At the end of their tether, all the national brethren fought them back. When the fascists were driven out, the imperialists came into Myanmar once again. They tried to give the independence only to the mainland, neglecting the highlands.
Because of the signing of the historic Aung San-Attlee Agreenent on 27 January, 1947, the objective “to gain the early unification of the Frontier Areas and Burma (Myanmar) Proper” was implemented. Soon after this on 12 February of the same year, the representatives of national brethren met the representatives of the Governor’s Executive Council at Panglong and reached agreement which paved the way for national unity.
At the Panglong Conference, Bogyoke Aung San assured the gathering that they could pursue their own culture and customs and enjoy freedom of belief so that their individual identities might not be lost. This was a remarkable speech by which Bogyoke managed to win the hearts of the national races and erase the suspicions of the past.
Bogyoke was a man who did as he said. Naturally, he won the confidence and respect of all the national races in the country. Although he did not live long to see the country gain its freedom, the posterity had achieved national unity and finally gained independence.
Regarding Bogyoke Aung San’s clear-cut vision on the Union-born ethnic nationals, we can see an excerpt from his address delivered at the Fourth Meeting of the State Leaders held in August, 1945. He said, “Nationalism should not be ‘racialism’ or ‘chauvinism’; it must not be a narrow-minded racial doctrine based on the concept that only one’s own race should rule the world. Loving one’s own race should not mean hatred and disdain for other races; it should be a nationalism that makes countries across the world work for mutual prosperity in friendship and amity.”
You can compare the view of Bogyoke Aung San with his daughter’s, “All ethnic national brothers and sisters are all sons and daughters of the Union. We can get only with Union Spirit. We should strive to live in unity although there may be differences in race, language and religion. It is of utmost importance for all of us who live in this Union and love her lands and water to cherish the task of building a strong, peaceful, united and developed Union.” State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said so at the opening ceremony of the Ethnics Culture Festival-2020 held on 1 February this year. You will see the farsightedness of the father and the daughter.
In the Republic of the Union of Myanmar where national races are residing, the culture, traditions and customs, languages and social systems may appear to be different but in essence they are all based on the common blood of Union kinship and Union Spirit like a hundred fruits from a common stem.
“The country will prosper if there is unity” “Unity is strength” “United we stand, divided we fall,” so go the sayings. They all stand for ‘Unity’. Just as unity nourishes strength, lack of unity is enervating and may well lead to ultimate destruction.
“…Breed within self since young the union spirit, democracy federal citizen spirit that was in accordance with a democracy political system and federal system. Recognize the diviersities within the union-born ethnic nationals. Our youths are urged to display mutual respect, sympathy and provide assistance to establish the nation’s unity of strength.
Regarding the nation’s unity of strength, President U Win Myint said so at the Youths All-Round Development Festival (Magway) held on 14 December, 2019. We should not forget it.
The 12th February, 1947 on which the Panglong Agreement was signed as a vivid manifestation of the unity and solidarity among the national races has been designated as “Union Day”. The Union Day celebrations have been held every year with full political essence for 73 years.
More than seven decades have elapsed since the signing of the Panglong Agreement and yet the Spririt of Panglong still colours the thoughts and feelings of the coming generations.
Here, may I use some quotable six-lined stanza that appeared in the Global New Light of Myanmar—
Maintain unity of all ethnic
Remember Union Day!
Living on the same land and
drinking the same water,
We are all Union nationals of
the same blood.
A hundred fruits from the
same stem,
Our Union built in brother-
Our parents taught that ‘Unity is strength.’ We again has taught our children the essence of this saying. And our children surely will do so. Our motto must be “One heart, one way”.
Ref:1.The Guardian, 12-2-1974
2.The Global New Light of Myanmar, 15-12-2019

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