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On the second day of the National Ethnic Youth Conference in the Shan State town of Panglong on Thursday, several participants, including a number of representatives from smaller ethnic groups, questioned whether equal rights would prevail for those ethnic minorities that do not have their own state or administrative region.
The debate arose during a Q&A session with special guests Aye Maung, the chairman of the Arakan National Party; Col. Khun Okker of the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation; 1990 people’s parliament representative Thein Oo; and political commentator Khin Ma Ma Myo.
“Most of the questions concerned power-sharing, self-administration, and the rights of ethnic people without states, as in: ‘how can they ever achieve equal status without their own administrative region?’” said conference spokesperson Min Hnaung Htaw. “Dr Aye Maung answered that it depends a lot on how we establish a federal union in the future – whether it’s based on administrative regions or ethnic groups. He noted that this question makes clear the necessity for a review and re-verification of all the 135 ethnic groups recognised in the country.”
He said the youth participants also questioned the speakers on matters relating to the mechanisms of a future federal union.
He added that some participants also questioned the veracity of holding another Panglong conference –the so-called “21st Century Panglong Conference” touted by the Aung San Suu Kyi-led government – while the agreements signed back in 1947 were yet to be implemented.
The National Ethnic Youth Conference is being held in Panglong from 27 to 31 July with over 700 participants from 28 Burmese ethnic groups, including Palaung, Pa-O, Kokang, Kadu, Kanan, Salon (Moken), Tavoy, Red Shan, Naga, Thet, Khami and Inntha.