Khun Htun Oo, the chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), said that national reconciliation can only be possible with significant changes being made to Burma's 2008 Constitution. Khun Htun Oo, who is also the Chairman of the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), a grouping of ethnic political parties, made the comments at a meeting of the UNA and the Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Centre (ENAC), held in Rangoon on 30 June.
“We will not have peace without amending the 2008 Constitution. Also, we will not be able to aim towards national reconciliation. The important thing is that the 2008 Constitution must be fixed,” said Khun Htun Oo, during a speech delivered at the opening of the meeting.
The veteran politician and former political prisoner was responding to remarks made last month by U Win Myint, a NLD speaker for the Lower House, indicating that the constitution will only be amended after “internal peace” has been achieved. Khun Htun Oo disagrees with this view and maintains that the constitution needs to be changed first to include democratic standards in line with the desire of the majority of ethnic people.
Khun Htun Oo said: “This constitution needs to guarantee the right for self-determination for ethnic people and for the Burmese. Trust must be gained first amongst each other, each group, and each race, in order for all citizens to live peacefully under the rule of law without discriminating who is powerful or weak, or which group is bigger or smaller,”
SNLD’s spokesperson Sai Leik explained that the SNLD leader and his party hold the view that the constitution is the main issue in Burma and it must be amended. According to Sai Leik, the meeting was held to prepare for the upcoming 21st Century Panglong Conference, which is expected to be held by late August.
“The workshop was held to discuss what kind of federal system is suitable for the future of Burma and how to obtain ethnic rights and equal standards of all ethnic people,” said Sai Leik.
The upcoming conference is being organized by the National League for Democracy (NLD) government and will be closely watched by many ethnic people as it aims to follow a historic conference convened by Aung San Suu Kyi's father General Aung San and ethnic leaders in 1947. It remains unclear at this point if representatives from all of Burma's various ethnic armed groups will attend the conference or only those in ceasefire agreements with the central