A Shan political party fears the Tatmadaw will try to revoke ethnic groups’ right to secede from the Union at the upcoming Panglong peace conference.
“I heard that [the government] will confirm the Burmese Army’s proposal for non-secession from the Union, which was submitted at the UPDJC (Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee) meeting on [May] 12. If they approve this request, they will be breaking Union pledges. In other word, it’s an act of betrayal against the Union Agreement,” Sai Leik, the spokesperson for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) told S.H.A.N.
Ethnic minority groups trace their right to secede to an agreement with Bogyoke Aung San, when they tentatively joined the Union of Burma, and a secession clause was included in the 1947 Constitution.
The upcoming 21st-cenutry Panglong Peace Conference, scheduled to start on May 24, is expected to include discussions about the rights of states and regions to draft their own constitution. The Tatmadaw has submitted a proposal to prevent states from seceding.
“If they want us to give our pledges on non-secession [from the Union], they need to offer pledges on what will they do to prevent us from separating with the international [community] as the witness [for their pledges,” Sai Leik added.
He said the secession clause allows negotiations over the federal Union to remain on fairly equal footing, and said no one should be asking to remove checks and balances at such a sensitive time.
“If you discard this [right of secession] by saying that it is no longer suitable for the current era … you would be turning your back on history,” he said. “Another thing is that it will be a waste of time and effort to discuss the drafting of state constitutions instead of trying to redraft the [Union] constitution so that it fits with the federal model with full democratic standards in line with public desire.”
According to Section 202 under Chapter 10 in the 1947 Constitution, the right of secession shall not be exercised within ten years from the date on which this Constitution comes into operation. The state can secede only when it receives approval from two-thirds of the members of the state council.
Translated by Thida Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron