Vandals attacked a statue of Burmese independence hero General Aung San late Sunday night in Kachin state’s capital Myitkyina, covering its face with green paint in a display of opposition to the honoring in ethnic minority areas of the man who freed Myanmar from British colonial rule 70 years ago.
Plans to erect statues of the general, father of state counselor and de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, have sparked opposition by local activists who revere their own war heroes and see the moves as a bid by the current civilian government to "Burmanize” or assimilate them.
Speaking on Monday to RFA’s Burmese Service, Kachin state police chief Col. Myo Thura Naung said the vandalism was discovered Monday morning.
“We got to know about it only this morning,” the police colonel said.
“We went there and saw that the side of the statue facing its protective fence had been vandalized with green paint,” he said. “It seems that they had to break the fence to get close to it.”
No one has been arrested yet for the crime, he said, adding, “We are conducting an investigation.”
Meanwhile, plans to build a 15-foot-tall equestrian statue of Aung San in Myanmar’s Kayah state will continue despite protests earlier this month by local groups opposed to the project, Kayah state chief minister Paung Sho told reporters in a press conference Monday morning.
Construction of the statue, expected to cost about 80 million kyats (U.S. $55,288), will be funded by individual contributions and by surplus from the state budget, he said, adding that a committee overseeing the project has been disbanded and a new committee formed by local residents and civil society organizations will now supervise the work.
National League for Democracy (NLD) party chief and state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Aung San’s daughter, has revived in a 21st Century Panglong Conference negotiations with Myanmar’s ethnic groups begun by her father before his assassination on July 19, 1947.
Myanmar, a former British colony long known as Burma, has 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. Some ethnic armed groups have been waging war for decades with Myanmar forces in their quest for a federal democratic union in the country with a constitutional guarantee for a certain degree of autonomy for ethnic minorities.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin and Kyaw Myo Min for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.