By Thein Tun (IR)
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar commemorates 71 years of Union Day, which has passed through many decades and different political systems in the history of Myanmar.
Compared to the human lifespan, Union Day seems like an elderly man who has had many life experiences. Therefore the assumption can be made that the young should learn more from the elderly men who have knowledge and experience in life. So it is with Union Day, which has gone through bittersweet experiences over the years.
Union Day is regarded as a fortuitous day in Myanmar’s history, and it also represents the future.
The essence of Union Day can awaken the Union Spirit, which can achieve internal peace and stability for the country.
No one can deny the fact that this auspicious day can foster the establishment of a democratic federal union, which can enhance the national spirit among the ethnic races.
At the time of the British annexation of Myanmar in 1886, Myanmar was not a unified country. The central parts of Myanmar were indeed settled by the Myanmar people, but the peripheral areas were populated by various smaller tribes and ethnic races.
After World War II, Bogyoke Aung San led a group that opposed both fascism and British colonial rule. He had essentially become head of the state and led the peace negotiations that culminated in the Panglong Agreement of February 12th, 1947.
The Panglong Agreement was negotiated among Bogyoke Aung San, leaders from the Shan, Kachin, Chin, and other states, and the British government.
Looking back at the history of the independence of Myanmar, it can be seen that ethnic national leaders signed the Panglong agreement in unity and achieved independence.
Union Day shows the unity of ethnic brothers and sisters and has been celebrated every year for 71 years.
Union Day has been celebrated every year so that the future generations know that independence was achieved when unity was achieved, and thus to value the unity of the ethnic nationals in the same way as valuing our own lives.
In order to carry out this objective, seven Shan Sawbwas, and two representatives from Shan, five from Kachin, three from Chin, and 23 from the Myanmar government, including Bogyoke Aung San, signed the Panglong Agreement on 12 February 1947.
One of the Sawbwas of Southern Shan rallied the Shan, Bamar and Kachin who were present, saying that although there were misunderstandings in the past, they will be gone after the night. He said that the people trying to sow discord among them have underestimated them.
“We are not dumb. We will risk our lives to realise the freedom we desire!” he is said to have said.
I feel his words were full of patriotism and hope. Perhaps we should view the entire story of that day, rather than focus on just the treaty.
In 2011, most of Myanmar unanimously started on the track to a democratic transition. There are still some who wish to, but have yet to join this peace process. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but rather it is finding a solution to conflict without the use of violence. Thus, it would be more wholesome for the future of Myanmar to be constructed by all of the people of Myanmar, all ethnics from all regions.
Even after 70 years, we are still caught in the aftereffects of imperialism, squabbling amongst ourselves. We should be careful not to destroy what Bogyoke Aung San had envisioned for us. This doesn’t mean we need to risk our lives as he did. Instead, we need to keep our egos and pride in check.
Translation by Win Ko Ko Aung and Zaw Htet Oo