- By Yay Chan (Mann)
The Union Day which falls on 12 February 2019 (Tuesday) is the 72nd anniversary of the signing of the Panglong Agreement by General Aung San and ethnic leaders, with the resolution of living in equality and unity of the people.
In accordance with the speech General Aung San had delivered at the London meeting to take the opinion the people of the hill regions, preparations were made to hold the Panglong Conference in February 1947. Following their discussions, which they held till 11 February 1947, leaders of hill regions and General Aung San made a resolution to restore independence together.
The representatives of Kachin, Chin and Shan ethnic races together with General Aung San signed the Panglong Agreement, with the united and firm spirit of joining hands together for the emergence of an independent State, at 10 am on 12 February that year. It is a milestone in the history.
General Aung San, representing the Myanmar government, Shan chieftains and public representatives of Kachin and Chin states, totaling 23 attended the Panglong Conference and signed the Agreement. The Border Investigation Committee, formed after the Panglong Agreement was signed, toured from Myitkyina to Loikaw.
The dark period
According to history, the Third Anglo-Myanmar War broke out after the colonialists declared war on Myanmar on 11 November 1885. On 14 November, the combined colonialist force of nearly 10,000 soldiers under the command of Maj-Gen Prendergast sailed on Ayeyawady River on board 47 ships of Irrawaddy Flotilla, and passed Thayet. The war lasted only 14 days till King Thibaw was dethroned. King Thibaw and Queen Suphaya Latt were deported at 5.45 pm on 29 November 1885 onboard the Thuriya vessel.
From that time on, Myanmar fell under rule of a western power. The colonialist’s initial military policy (1885-1890) was:
(1) to exile the Myanmar king
(2) to put the whole country totally under their control
(3) to end the race and the monarchy
It was a time the whole country was suffering from pain and agony. About that fact, well-known monk portrayed the intense feelings of the whole country in his poem.
Human race first began to evolve thousands of years ago on the land now called Myanmar. Nationalities settled down in areas along the banks of Ayeyawady, on the Shan hills and other places. They then migrated to other places of the country, living in the length and breath of the Union as Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Myanmar, Rakhine and Shan ethnic races.
Bagan, which is dotted with large number pagodas, Inwa, Shwebo, Amarapura, Yadanabon (Mandalay), Toungoo and Bago stood as the royal capitals of Myanmar, where Buddhism flourished, in history.
Noblemen, powerful kings, wise court ministers and brilliant generals appeared in Myanmar since Bagan era. Some of them are renowned internationally.
Gallant Myanmar leaders, who cherished the religion, cultural traditions, had defended the country against alien invasion during the respective periods. Sadly, during the time of King Thibaw, the 11th monarchy of Konbaung dynasty, Myanmar fell under colonialist rule for certain reasons.
Before the Panglong Agreement
The efforts to achieve the Panglong Agreement always are milestone in the history of independence struggle of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) under the leadership of General Aung San. The then military administrative bodies tried to crush General Aung San and the AFPFL through violent means. But Lord Mountbatten, the then military chief, understood well that the arrest of General Aung San would surely be met with strong public resistance.
The confrontation between the AFPFL and Governor Dorman-Smith lasted for about a year. At last, Dorman-Smith had to go back to his country on 14-6-1946 in accord with the public call for his resignation and departure. The AFPLF launched a campaign to rally public participation in the general strike in September. All employees of the road transport, inland water transport, saw mill workers, dockyard workers, communications employees, government employees and even the police force, which was the bastion of the colonialists, took part in the strike that thundered all around the country.
Ultimatum for independence
On 27-9-1947, Chairman of AFPFL General Aung San entered the executive body of the governor and formed the cabinet. The Sir Paw Tun government, a colonial stooge, fell. An accord was reached to give General Aung San a prime minister level post and to form an interim government. General Aung San declared to regain independence within a year.
The executive body of the AFPFL issued an important statement on 8 November 1946, demanding the colonialist government to give a definite answer in connection with the independence of Myanmar not later than 31 January 1947, or face the resignation of the AFPFL government.
The British government dared not ignore the demand of the AFPFL. Prime Minister Attlee gave a speech in connection with the independence of Myanmar at the lower house of Britain on 21-12-1946 as follows:
In his speech, Prime Minister Attlee expressed the desire of his government to grant Myanmar independence soonest whether the country joined the British Commonwealth or not, and ensure autonomy for Myanmar people through the quickest and easiest means. It’s a significant chapter of Myanmar’s independence struggle.
A team led by General Aung San was invited to hold talks in London, and Sir Gibert Laithwaite, the permanent secretary of the British Foreign Ministry, was dispatched to Yangon to explain the matter. So, the rays of hope for independence started to beam as aspired by the AFPFL under the leadership of General Aung San and the entire people.
As a public leader, General Aung San made preparations for the prevailing and future situations according to his vision, before leaving for London. He went to Taunggyi and Loikaw in Shan State on 23 December 1946, held talks with local leaders and held public meetings.
The promise of General Aung San
The executive body of Myanmar governor declared its acceptance of the invitation of the British government under the approval of AFPFL on 26-12-1946. A 16-member delegation under the leadership of General Aung San was then formed.
The delegation held talks with the British government at noon on 13-1-1947. In his response to the greetings extended by Prime Minister Attlee, General Aung San said that Myanmar people aspired independence; that as for him independence means freedom for every part of the country including the frontier areas of ethnics such as Kayin, Kachin, Shan and Kayinni; that in his view Myanmar should be granted independence within a year starting from that date. He exactly represented the desire of the people.
General Aung San endeavored for the independence for the entire Myanmar including the plains and hill regions, with all-out efforts, goodwill and brilliant leadership abilities. At the same time, he was striving hard to attain the united strength of the ethnic peoples of hill regions.
The people of Myanmar including youths and students cherish and remember the struggles of General Aung San and the AFPFL government, leaders, the Panglong Agreement, and the public support and involvement in the independence struggles. They too should also safeguard the nation.
On this 72nd Anniversary Day of Independence, I pray for the ever flourishing of the value of the independence and Panglong spirit and strength, the essence of the Union, in the hearts of all the people of Myanmar.