The cardinal's call comes on the eve of the fourth session of the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong. In 1947, the first Panglong conference laid the foundations for the birth of the country. Peace between different ethnic groups is needed to defeat the pandemic, "a greater common enemy". Democracy and federalism can unite the population.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – The fourth session of Union Peace Conference 21st Century Panglong is set to start on 19 August. In a message ahead of the event, Card Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, notes that “There is no other path than dialogue. [. . .] We’re all damaged by war. No one wins. The only way is peace.”
Led by Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s government, the Armed Forces (Tatmadaw), and the leaders of various armed ethnic groups will participate in peace negotiations to end decades of inter-ethnic conflict in the country.
In 1947, the first Panglong conference laid the foundations of modern Myanmar, then called Burma. Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, head of the government of the British Crown colony of Burma, brokered the deal between the four main ethnic groups (Bamar, Chin, Kachin and Shan).
At present, the absence of several large ethnic groups has weakened current negotiations. The Kachin Independence Army and the TNLA Ta'ang have refused to join the process in protest for the exclusion of the Arakan Army.
In his remarks, Card Bo offers a prayer for the success of the conference, pointing out that General Aung San, and all those who dreamt of a new united nation after the ruins of the Japanese invasion and colonialism, fought to “to build on the fertile, life giving differences among us, and so shape a proud, united people.”
The prelate goes on to bemoan Aung San’s brutal assassination 73 years ago, which marked the beginning of decades of division, conflict and darkness for the people of Myanmar.
For him, the players at the table of negotiations can now overturn this history of death and suffering; even more so now as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
Archbishop Bo cites Pope Francis who issued a passionate call for a world-wide ceasefire in order to defeat a greater common enemy, COVID-19. “Through unity,” he notes, “we will rebuild our nation after the socio-economic, environmental and medical wreckage of the global pandemic.”
For the cardinal, the only way forward is democracy, building a true federal state, with a representative government that takes care of all its citizens.
He warns that military solutions are counterproductive and must be abandoned in favour of cooperation, civilisation and wisdom.
The country needs “a military which is inclusive of all ethnic groups, without any discrimination.” What is more, “Gradually, the military must come under the authority of a democratically accountable elected President.”
According to the archbishop of Yangon, by showing respect for its people, providing a safety net even for the poorest, Myanmar will be able to reclaim its place in Asia and the world.
Ultimately, “Peace is possible,” he says. “Peace means development. Peace is our destiny.”