Myanmar: Cheers and Jeers for Peace Day Rally

A peace demonstration was organized in Yangon, Myanmar on September 21, 2012, during the International Day of Peace with the common slogan of “STOP Civil War”. The Kachin Peace Network, which initiated [my] the movement, intended to hold the event in Nay Pyi Taw. However, authorities warned [my] them not to hold the event in the area. As an alternative, the group organized a peaceful rally in well-known public spots – People's Square and Inya Lake.

Hundreds of youth groups, volunteer organisations and individuals joined the rally by shouting and holding slogans such as “STOP War right now” [my], “A bullet = A meal” [my], “Stay together, Peace forever“, “Stop civil war for children's future” [my] and “We believe we can stop war“.

The activity was actively discussed online after Yangon police force told the media [my] that those who were involved in the rally would be detained because it was organized without a permit.  Some supported the peace day movement as a timely activity while others seem to believe that such demonstration would be of no use for the war victims.

Khon Ja, a Kachin ethnic, called others to support the peace day movement:

Today… International Day of Peace 2012..

Without official permission…
All the Peace Lovers from Myanmar will be walking, marching, dancing, singing, performing, showing and sharing Peace Messages, and Calling to STOP CIVIL WAR FOREVER!!!!!!

Yangon… Nay Pyi Daw… Mandalay… Mawlamyaing ….

All my friends, please keep an eye on the safety of the peace makers.. Please support your friends in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Yangon-based Youth Voluntary Network reported [my] that they received 432,500 kyats (about US$ 500) which would be contributed to support the war victims in northern Myanmar. They explained [my] their activities on that day which generated funds for their advocacies:

On International Day of Peace, we earned funding for education of the children in Kachin by singing peace songs across Yangon. At 4 o'clock, we prayed (for war victims) together with other groups at Kan Baung (Inya Lake's bank) and erected the stone pillar of peace.

A number of netizens criticized the decision of Yangon police by defending the peace makers. Ye Htet commented [my] that the movement was not a protest.

I don't know why m

Blue balloons were released as the symbol of peace on International Day of Peace. Photo – CJ Myanmar Facebook Page

It's not a protest. It's marching for International Day of Peace. Haven't you heard something called World Peace Day? (They are) not shouting “Our rights!”. That day has been celebrated since 1982. It's only for peace and they want to detain (them). Hmm…. terrible.. terrible.

Sy Bio asserted [my] a similar view.

(They are) making effort for peace. Please try to understand, I want to say it to police officers. Myanmar people want peace already. The law has to see the people's faces. What are you doing? Your actions are for whom?

On the other hand, a lot of netizens believe that the war which is a conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and government army is not the fault of government alone. Some of them dismissed the rally as an unproductive exercise.

Arkar Joe reminded [my] the participants that joining rallies, wearing fashionable clothes, and shouting peace slogans won't work:

Everybody would have known before they went onto the road that it would not be possible not to see the gun smoke just by walking on the roads with fashionable clothes under the name of peace.

Kyaw Kyaw Han suggested [my] how the peace day should actually be celebrated:

I do not deny the fact that there is no absolute freedom of speech and rights to protest which are the essence of democracy in Myanmar. But it's impossible to have complete freedom today after we just emerged from the rule of the military junta. It's like asking an infant to stand up immediately. We have to wait for a period of time. If (they) really love International Day of Peace, they should do a celebration at a hall by giving speeches and reading papers. Now, I had to face the traffic jam from Mingalar Market to Kyaut Myaung traffic light. I'm against this demonstration as part of the public.

Peace advocates are also urged to condemn not only the atrocities committed by government soldiers but also the excesses of rebels. Tin Latt questioned [my] the purpose of the groups which were involved in the peace day movement:

I do not see urging both sides to stop (the war). What's the purpose? Ceasefire can happen only when both parties stop. At least, the bombing and mining of railways and bridges by KIA should be condemned.

Some think that there are too many protests across the country organized for different reasons. Sar Bu Dee posted [my] a short satire about the peace day rally:

Because of today's (peace day) rally, there was traffic jam and bus drivers, taxi drivers and bus conductors who couldn't drive full shift marched against the peace day rally.

Because of the marching of bus drivers, conductors and taxi drivers, the public did not have buses/cars to take and they marched against drivers and conductors by condemning their actions.

Because the public were marching on the road, they couldn't go to their work and the employers marched against the employees for unproductivity.

Because … marched against…

Because … marched against…

Citizen journalists and some of the initiators of the movement posted the latest situation of some participants who were detained for joining the rally. Nay Myo Zin shared on his Facebook that he had to go to five different police offices to sign papers that he would come to court once he is called regarding the marching that took place without an approved license. Similar events were held in Mandalay, Pyinmana and other towns as well.

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