Karenni Youth Urge Removal of Gen Aung San Statue by March 17

As the deadline nears, there is no word from the state or Union government.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Karenni youth have demanded that the Karenni State government remove a controversial statue of Burmese independence icon Gen Aung San by Sunday.

A failure to remove the statue by the authorities will mean the young people will remove it themselves from Loikaw’s Kantaheywon Park, they said.

“We have already urged the government to resolve this issue by March 17. If they don’t respond by then, we will implement the statue removal process ourselves,” youth representative Khun Thomas told NMG.

According to Karenni youth leaders, they have as yet been unable to meet with the statue’s establishment committee, even though during February demonstrations against the placement of the statue, further meetings were agreed upon.

The Karenni Youth Forces released a statement urging the Karenni State chief minister L Paung Sho and the state’s finance minister U Maw Maw to remove the statue on March 17 at the latest. They sent an open letter to the Union President on March 7, but also received no response.

“We don’t want this statue to be placed in a public area. We have already said that if the NLD [National League for Democracy] party [were the ones to] begin to build this statue, it should be moved to the NLD party’s office,” Khun Thomas explained. “We don’t want to criticize this government. This copper statue is just a statue. But there is a history behind it. We don’t want the disappearance of the symbols and characters of our own identity.”

Rose Kyaw, an ethnic Kayaw woman and a member of the committee calling for the removal of the Gen Aung San statue, said that the issue extends beyond the statue itself and relates to “national reconciliation, equality, ethnic rights, and indigenous rights.”

In demonstrating for the removal of the statue last month, youth activists said that the structure should not be erected while Gen Aung San’s promises of equality to the country’s ethnic communities remain unfulfilled. They also point out that placing a statue of an ethnic Burman like Gen Aung San in an ethnic state capital ignores Karenni history.

“Our Karenni history has been manipulated for so many years. [Burma’s leadership] has failed to implement the promises given in history. We have concluded that they want to completely wipe out our history,” Rose Kyaw said.

Protests against the statue broke out on February 12, with more than 20 people getting injured after police opened fire on demonstrations with rubber bullets. However, opposition to the statue dates back more than one year, when the state government first proposed the statue of Gen Aung San.