PANGLONG, MYANMAR – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on all armed ethnic groups to sign a cease-fire agreement during a speech Sunday in the same place where her father, an independence hero, signed a peace deal 70 years ago.
Speaking during annual Union Day celebrations in Shan state, Suu Kyi said ethnic groups can still join the movement for peace.
“I want to ask those ethnic groups who haven’t signed the nationwide cease-fire to trust yourself and sign it and please participate in our 21st Century Panglong Conference,” Suu Kyi said.
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy Party promised that peace would be the top priority when she came to power a year ago. But she has come under fire for ignoring the plight of the oppressed Rohingya Muslims and failing to stop atrocities against other ethnic minorities.
Skirmishes, particularly in the northern zones where Kachin insurgents are fighting the army, have displaced more than 100,000 civilians since 2011 alone.
With military offensives on the rise, ethnic groups have recently expressed that their hopes for Suu Kyi leading the peace process are fading.
Union Day marks the original Panglong agreement, brokered by Suu Kyi’s father, Gen Aung San. He, along with ethnic Shan, Kachin and Chin leaders, signed the deal to grant ethnic minorities autonomy and the right to secede if they worked with the federal government to break away from Britain.
But Gen Aung San was assassinated five months after the agreement was reached and the deal fell apart. Since then, ethnic groups have accused successive, mostly military governments of failing to honour the 1947 pact.