Panglong Agreement: Burma’s Magna Carta

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This year’s Union Day is significant, not only because leaders of all non-Burman states including armed movements that have been fighting against successive governments for so long, would be invited to join the ceremony in Naypyitaw, but also it coincides with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta (“Great Charter”) which falls on 15 June.

Panglong Agreement

Whereas the Magna Carta, which was signed by King John (1167-1216), has been hailed as Democracy’s first victory and as the first declaration of human rights in reference to clauses such as:
• War tax would be levied only with the general consent of the realm
• That no freeman shall be seized or imprisoned

the Panglong Agreement contains firm pledges such as :
• Appointment of the representative from Frontier Areas (now known as Border Areas) as minister responsible for the affairs of these areas
• “rights and privileges which are regarded as fundamental in democratic countries”
• “financial autonomy” (which means self-supporting)

Another similarity is also striking: its sacnosanctity. Statutes and laws conflicting with it are considered (“ruled” in British case) invalid. As in Burma, when the king reneged on the charter, there was rebellion. Only when it was reaffirmed after his death, the rebellion ended, because the rebels no longer possessed a cause to fight for.

Magna Carta

This lesson from the British history may be a harsh one but vital especially for those trumpeting the three “sacred” causes: Non-disintegration of the Union, Non-disintegration of National Solidarity and Perpetuation of National Sovereignty. Because nothing can be clearer than the precedent in British history.

Any Burmese leader, present or future, who has vowed to bring peace to this war-torn country must therefore realize that he/she cannot achieve it just by paying lip service to the Panglong Agreement but only by fulfilling the solemn pledges contained in it. Any other way invites only conflict and war.

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