Committee Formed Regarding Removal of Loikaw’s Gen Aung San Statue

Youth and Karenni State government representatives agreed to form the committee in a meeting.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Karenni (Kayah) State government and ethnic Karenni youth have agreed to form a committee focused on the removal of a controversial Gen Aung San statue in Loikaw this month.

Youth representative Khun Thomas said that it was agreed in a meeting on Tuesday that the committee would be established.

“The committee has to coordinate in an upcoming meeting on May 14. The committee must carry out the removal the statue this month,” he told NMG. A final meeting is scheduled for May 30.

Included in the coordinating committee are MPs, religious leaders, political party representatives as well as members of ethnic armed organizations and civil society. It will serve to link the state government with the youth activists who have demanded that the statue be taken down from a public park, where it was erected.

“At the beginning of meeting, there was tension between us. The meeting was almost scrapped. Finally, the meeting ended peacefully,” Khun Thomas explained. “The positive thing is that there were developments in the discussion between the Kayah State government and us. The Kayah State chief minister said that they had considered removing the statue. We also demanded the complete removal of the statue.”

Parliamentarian Thae Reh told NMG he was impressed with the way the youth handled themselves in the meeting, and that he felt as though they were heard.

“They agreed to discuss the removal of the statue in the coming days. What I see is that the youth are so patient, with a big heart, in the meeting, even though government side had tension,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s better if they [the government] can actually remove this statue. If they don’t remove the statue, the youth are likely to continue their opposition against it.”

Thae Reh speculated that the actions of the state government moving forward could affect the implementation of the peace process.

“In this case, I am not satisfied with the actions of the Kayah State government. It’s not good for the implementation of national equality, federalism and the peace process. The government didn’t listen to the voice of people. So their action is in the style of a dictatorship,” he told NMG.

Representatives of the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the Karenni State government, the statue construction committee, and Karenni youth held a meeting in Loikaw on March 20 and agreed to meet again in April, but the meeting did not take place.

Khun Thomas said that the “path to negotiation is still open” and that Tuesday’s meeting offered “a little improvement,” but was careful to say that it was “not a victory.”

“It’s important to respect the agreement in the meeting. Both parties must respect the agreement,” he added.

Karenni State Chief Minister El Phoung Sho, four government representatives, and seven youth representatives attended Tuesday’s meeting. Observers from the NRPC and KNPP came to the morning session.

Karenni youth and members of the public have opposed the Gen Aung San statue in Loikaw’s Kantaheywon public park since 2018. Major protests were launched in February of this year when the statue was erected, leading to a crackdown by security forces which included the use of rubber bullets against youth activists. More than 20 people were wounded in the protest.