Sunday, July 21, 2024

77th Shan National Day Anniversary: Inter-ethnic conflict or common national identity?

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On 7th February, 2024, it is again the 77th Shan National Day occasion and it is time to reassess our situation as Shan and as well all ethnic groups and civilian of the Shan State.

Shan National Day was promulgated on 7 February 1947, which demonstrated the unity of Shan princes and the people’s representatives of the Federated Shan States and declared, followed by the resolutions of “Shan National Anthem”, “Shan National Flag” and the formation of “Shan State Council” on the 11 and 15 of February, 1947 respectively.

It is important to take into account that the documentation and birth of the Shan nation is signed by a Palaung Twangpeng Saohpa or Sawbwa Khun Pan Sing, who was the president of Council of Shan State Saohpa, on 11 February 1947.

The Panglong Conference that followed on 12 February 1947 produced the Panglong Agreement between the Bamar or Burmese State (Ministerial Burma) represented by Gen Aung San and the ethnic nationalities Chin, Shan and Kachin to form a union on equal basis.

Aung San and ethnic nationalites leaders signing Panglong Areement
Aung San and ethnic nationalities leaders signing Panglong Agreement.

It is not an exaggeration to state that without Panglong Agreement or Accord, signifying the intent and willingness of the free peoples and nations of what could be termed British Indochina, there would have not been born the Union of Burma.

Firstly, there is no denying that our forefathers’ aim and vision during pre-Panglong Agreement in 1947 of a prosperous and harmonious multi-ethnic Shan State as a nation within the Union of Burma has not materialised and in fact deteriorated to the extent of faltering.

In addition to the successive Bamar-dominated civilian and military governments’ Bamar supremacy doctrine that have crippled the Shan nation-building process, we now have a rise of ethno-nationalism and ethnocentrism within the Shan State. In plain words, some of the ethnic groups within the Shan State, such as Wa, Palaung and Pa-O don’t want to accept our combined forefathers’ vision of Shan nation and common Shan national identity anymore.

As we can see each day, there is a continuous friction and outright conflict as an inter-ethnic conflict among brethren of different ethnic groups, in trying to mould their different, respective neatly demarcated ethnic states, carving out of the Shan State.

While there is nothing wrong in wanting to upgrade their ethnic groups status into becoming nations, there are lots of pitfalls that come with it in trying to do so.

The main problem is that in Shan State ethnic groups intermingled with each other from time immemorial and have a mixed demographic pattern all along, while there may be some concentration of ethnic enclaves across Shan State. In fact, Shan State is through and through, a multi-ethnic state. This is the real existing reality at hand.

The main question here is do the ethnic groups of Shan State want to compete and fight each other without end in territorial expansion and dispute in the process of trying to carve out different ethnic states, or can we agree upon the vision of our forefathers to accept a common national identity in 1947, as a nation.

Shan National Day
Shan National Day.

Thus, on this occasion of 77th anniversary Shan National Day, we, the people and citizens of Shan State, should ask ourselves whether we will again agree upon our forefathers vision of common national identity that we all can identify with, or will we continue to carry on with carving out different ethnic states, at the expense of the the suffering people because of inter-ethnic conflict, animosity and devastation of our beloved common homeland.

Frankly, this writer is of the opinion that the innovative and fine-tuning Federated Shan States of 1922 may still be the solution for all ethnic groups residing within the Shan State, where a multi-ethnic state can live together in harmony and prosperity within the norms of “unity in diversity”.

Finally, if we have a will for win-win out come we can overcome the urge of ethno-nationalism in a positive way that will benefit every individual and ethnic group within Shan State.

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