- Takkatho Pwint Thu Aung
Myanmar is a country that could proudly stand on the world map as a unified country when all of its people rallied together to secure independence back in 4 January 1948. Kachin, Kayin, Kayah, Chin, Burma, Mon, Rakhine, Shan and a hundred others lived together in harmony. With independence then secured, the people of Myanmar worked on establishing a peaceful country. And so after numerous meetings between the Shan sawbwas, Kachin representatives and other Hill Tribe people, the Panglong Agreement was signed on 12 February 1947.
Aung San-Atlee Agreement
Prior to signing the Panglong agreement, Bogyoke Aung San was in London to sign an agreement with then-British Prime Minister Clement Attlee guaranteeing Myanmar’s independence within a year. But before the agreement could be signed, a telegram arrived from some Shan sawbwas back in Myanmar stating that Aung San was not the representative of the Shan people. Thankfully a couple of youth leaders from Shan State, namely U Tin Aye, U Pe Khin and U Tun Myint, sent another telegram to England saying that Aung San was the right representative for the Shan People and all of Myanmar. The timely arrival of the telegram allowed the Aung San-Atlee agreement to be successfully signed.
Bogyoke Aung San’s historical speech
Shortly after returning from England, Bogyoke Aung San travelled throughout Shan, Chin, Kachin and other places to rally the cause for unification of the country. It was this that led to the signing of the Panglong Agreement. On 6 February 1947, the facilitator of the meeting, the Northern Shan Sawbwa Sao Khun Pan Sein, sent a telegram to the radio station to announce the first meeting for the Panglong Agreement.
The party led by Bogyoke Aung San arrived in Panglong village on 8 February and he was accompanied by U Aung Zan Wai, Bo Khin Maung Lay, U Pe Khin and Bo Tun Hla. The next day, Mr. Arthur Bottomley, the British Minister for Overseas Development, U Tin Htut, Burnet Ledwich and John Slayden arrived in Panglong.
Bogyoke Aung San and all the leaders held discussions until midday on 11 February. They finally reached a consensus to attain independence collectively. The Panglong dinner was held that night to commemorate the auspicious day.
Bogyoke Aung San made at a speech at the dinner saying that we must unite all our human resources, treasury and strength for the entire country’s development. If the Burmese want one thing, the Kayin want another and Kachin and Chin are also divided, then there will be no gain for anyone.
From Panglong Agreement to Union Day
It was on 12 February, 1947, that Bogyoke Aung San and representatives of Kachin, Chin and Shan peoples signed the Panglong Agreement, with the determination of living in unity and with equal rights. There were 23 signatories including Bogyoke Aung San to the agreement.
The Panglong Agreement is the result of the struggle made by Bogyoke Aung San and ethnic leaders with farsightedness. With the Panglong Agreement, Myanmar with more than 100 ethnic tribes showed their unity since yore to gain independence, while the colonialists were planning to give independence dividing plain and hills.
Therefore, the day when the Panglong Agreement was signed was designated as Union Day. That day turns into the 71st anniversary on 12 February 2018. Within one year after the Panglong Agreement, Myanmar regained her independence and sovereignty.
Thanks to the unity of all ethnic peoples, Myanmar has become a sovereign independent country since 4th January 1948 after more than 100 years under colonial rule.
Article 348 in the Chapter 8 of the 2008 Constitution stated that “The Union shall not discriminate any citizen of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar based on race, birth, religion, official position, status, culture, sex and wealth.”
Article 347 also stated that “The Union shall guarantee any person to enjoy equal rights before the law and shall equally provide legal protection.”
Myanmar observes Union Day every year to show the value of the ethnic peoples’ unity which helped regain independence and to pass the good legacy of unity to the next generations. The observance of Union Day is aimed at raising awareness that the unity of all ethnic people should be valued as life.
Regarding the unity of all national races, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stated in her address at the 2nd Anniversary of the 2nd Hluttaw in Nay Pyi Taw on 2 February, that “an election is something that will support our endeavour for our next generation. It is not the ultimate aim.
The ultimate aim should be for the next generation to live in a stable, peaceful and developed nation. Our country is a union formed with ethnic nationals. It is very important to set up as a democratic union and a Democratic Federation Republic that is acceptable to the majority”.
Hence, all indigenous people residing in the union are urged to participate in building a democratic federal union while valuing our unity as life.