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Songwriter: ‘Panglong Agreement’ inspired by cartoon

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Speaking at the third and last day of the Shan forum on Trustbuilding for Peace today in Rangoon, Dr Sai Kham Leik recalled how a cartoon that appeared in a Shan publication had spurred him to write ‘Panglong Agreement’, his most celebrated song among the Shans since 1971.

“I had wanted to write it for so long,” he told his audience at Tawwin Hninzi (Royal Rose) on Shwe Gondaing Road. “But I couldn’t think of how I could draw the listeners’ attention to it.”

One day, he came across an old Tai Youth magazine, published by the Rangoon University Shan Literary Society in 1961. In it was a cartoon of one Shan youth climbing the statue of Aung San and going through his pockets. When the statue asked him, “What are you looking for?” he replied, “We’d just like to know If you had taken the Panglong Agreement away with you.”

The result was the song which ends with the lyrics:

Have they all gone, I wonder, with Aung San
Where are the vows and promises of Panglong?

The song was immortalized by Sai Hsai Mao, who sang and recorded it in Thailand, in 1974 with the financial support from the late Ta Maha Hsang, then leader of the Wa National Organization (WNO). “And the people of Shan State went berserk over it,” Sai Kham Leik, now 63, commented.

Sai Kham Leik, who has written both Shan and Burmese songs, is honored by both Shans and non-Shans alike in Burma.

The following is a free translation of his song by the late Chao Tzang Yawnghwe (1939-2004), considered Shans’ foremost scholar-fighter:

A free homeland for the Tai
This, we agreed on at Panglong
The vows and promises so solemnly made
And now, though it has never been told
By whom the promises were broken
We know who betrayed who
But the Tai have always been true
Where are the vows and promises of Panglong
Have they all gone, I wonder, with Aung San.

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