We founded Tea Circle in November 2015, just before Myanmar’s historic elections. This was a fortuitous time, as many people—Burmese and non-Burmese—wanted a platform to share their views on the country’s politics, development, and other related issues. Since that time, Tea Circle has expanded the topics it deals with and its range of contributing authors. However, we continue to hope that this can be a platform for dialogue and debate on key subjects and moments in contemporary Myanmar. With that in mind, we are issuing a call for submissions related to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent call for a “21st Century Panglong Conference.”
The 21st Century Panglong conference, which is scheduled to take place before the end of July, will build on the Union Peace Conference, which was hosted by the country’s outgoing government in January 2016 to fulfill the terms of the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). This 21st Century Panglong Conference offers possibilities for a more inclusive approach to peace, with sub-committees made up of both signatories and non-signatories to last year’s NCA, but many have also expressed doubts and concerns regarding its inclusive nature or the ability of the NLD-led government to compress a peace process that was originally envisaged to take 3-5 years.
The 1947 Panglong Conference was convened in southern Shan State by General Aung San— considered by many to be the “father of Burma”— with representatives from Shan, Kachin, Chin, and Karen delegations in attendance. Delegates from the first three of those groups would sign the Panglong agreement on 12 February 1947, agreeing, in principle, to the formation of a “Union of Burma” if given assurances of internal autonomy, independence through a form of federalization, and the right to seccession. While contemporary perspectives on the 1947 conference are varied, the promise of national unity outlined was historic, especially given the upheaval that would follow its signing; with Aung San’s assassination, growing political instability, and the beginning of ethnic and communist uprisings in Myanmar’s borderlands, the “spirit of Panglong” was greatly diminished— if not destroyed—in the years following independence.
How do people understand the “spirit of Panglong” and how could it be revived or transformed in the conference’s 21st century configuration? What might a new understanding of Panglong’s legacy— and its re-emergence today— mean for Myanmar in its present period of transition? How might dominant understandings of citizenship, political identity and national unity be reinforced or undermined by a more inclusive “Panglong-style” conference? How should we assess the plans of its organizers and what alternate plans or perspectives should be considered?
At the “Tea Circle”—an online forum for new research on Burma/Myanmar at the University of Oxford—we aim to explore these questions, and more, in the weeks leading up to the 21st Century Panglong Conference. As such, we are now accepting 1,000-1,500 word submissions for a mini-forum, to be published in the weeks leading up to and following the July conference. We wish to stress that Tea Circle is not only for academic analysis and we welcome submissions from anyone who wants to share their thoughts on this important subject. As the forum progresses, we also welcome writers to respond to previous posts in the forum, to develop an online discussion.
Submissions should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Panglong Forum.” The text of the submission should be attached in a word document with minimal formatting. A short biography (under 100 words) and byline should be included in the document, as well as a proposed title for the piece and a related image, if possible.