Monday, 6 February 2012

7 February: The gateway to 12 February

You may call it Shan National Day, as it used to be known, since the first Shan National Day was officially designated in 1930 in Taunggyi and later in 1947 at Panglong.
Or, if you think the name, by its name, leaves out indigenous non-Shans in what used to be known as Federated Shan States, you can adopt the new designation: Shan State Day.
As far as I’m concerned, any name will do, as long as the day’s historic significance is not forgotten, just as a rose’s signature fragrance is recognized. In each and everything, man should value its substance more than its label.
So what happened on 7 February 1947 that had called for a decision to commemorate it each year? A short recap will be needed here:
Aung San had just concluded an agreement in London, which promised Independence for Burma within one year. But he needed to ask the non-Burman Frontier peoples whether they would like to join Burma in Independence or if they would rather go it alone.
Many people at that time thought that the Frontier peoples, having little trust in the Burmans, would rather choose to stay under the grudging rule of the post-war British Labor Party government.
But, unknown to most people, Shan, Kachin and Chin representatives, who were jointly holding the Panglong Conference, had already reached agreement that the freedom of their respective people “would be achieved sooner through the cooperation with the Burmese.”
The only problem appeared to be with the Shans, who were still hoping that their newly formed Shan States Saophas Council (later Shan States Council), made up of equal number of the 33 ruling princes and 33 people’s representatives, would be recognized by the British government. Had the British accepted the demand, it was well nigh certain Aung San, who arrived on 8 February, would have to return empty-handed.
There wouldn’t have been a Panglong Agreement to sign and subsequently a Union Day to celebrate.
But, luckily for the Burmese, and unluckily for the Shans, Chins, Kachins and the rest (as some would indeed say) the British turned down the Shans’ call.
The result was the mass meeting held in the evening of 7 February, when the 14 men (7 princes and 7 people’s representatives) Executive Committee of the Shan States Council was declared, which marked the parting of the ways with the British.
This had paved the way for the successful negotiations with Aung San and the Panglong Agreement on 12 February.
Now, 65 years after, many Frontier peoples, especially the Shans, are wondering whether they had made a hasty decision in spurning the British suggestion to place the question of the reorganization of the Federal Council on the agenda of the Council meeting to be held in Taunggyi later in the month. (The Federal Council of Shan States was then presided by the British Commissioner.)
Most probably, it was the wrong decision for the Shans. But, on the other hand, it was also most probably the right decision for the Burmans who had automatically succeeded the the British to govern the Frontier Areas.
Therefore, if I were, say, the President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar now, I would not have hesitated to allow these Shans to celebrate every time 7 February returns with a vengeance. By all accounts, they should be mourning instead. But if they are still punch-drunk enough to choose to be hilarious about it, so be it.
After all’s said and done, it’s all for the best. Or don’t you think so?

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