Monday, May 14, 2012

12-5-2012 Workshop, review on Burma chalk-out action plan

Morung Express News | Guwahati | MAY 12
After two days of intense discussion involving social and human rights activists, researchers, journalists and a number of think-thank from different states of northeast, the workshop on “Reflections on 2012 by-elections in Burma” held at Guwahati came out with a series of recommendations for follow up action.

The recommendations included review of Vision 2020 for the Northeast; checking and preventing drugs, arms and human trafficking between the NE and Burma; establishing dialogue and cooperation between the divided communities of Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Burma; common effort to repeal AFSPA and; consequences of the democratic process in Burma to the Look East Policy.

On the last day of the workshop on Saturday, director of Zo Indigenous Forum, Lalremruata Rema presented paper on “Social and legal status of Chin Refugees in Mizoram.” He put the total number of Chins in Mizoram to more than one lakh in Mizoram which constituted 10% of the total population. He said these refugees were found working as blacksmith, bookseller, broker, business commission, construction, carpenter etc and earning their livelihood. Stating that the Chin refugees in Mizoram were living as ignored refugees, without any legal registration, recognition or protection, Lalremruata spoke of need for their legal and social protection.

He suggested strengthening the relations between Chins and Mizos living in Mizoram and also setting up of UN High Commission for Human Rights office in Guwahati or Aizawl. BCD coordinator, Kim gave a power point presentation on the “Ethnic nationalities and possible peace in Burma.”

He said there were seven main ethnic groups (Shan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Mon, Karenni (Kaya), Rakhine), seven states and divisions, six new self-administered areas in Myanmar. He said the ethnic people comprised of 40% of total population and that their land made up 60% of Burma’s total land. He said the ceasefire agreement with various rebel groups brought no positive changes for ethnic groups. Kim lamented that there was no attempts by Burmese Army to engage in political dialogue with ethnic groups and instead strengthened its control on ethnic areas. He also mentioned about the violation of human rights in Kachin State committed extensively by military personnel upon ethnic civilians.

Journalist from Nagaland working with The Morung Express, K. Filip Sumi spoke about media perspective on the 2012 by-elections in Burma. He cited reports of the harsh restrictions imposed upon the local media in Myanmar during the elections by the government which issued a list of do’s and don’ts.

For total democracy to take place, he said, the government in Burma needed to exempt pre-publication censorship as well as submission of articles for post publication review. He also said freedom of the press should not fall short of the right to criticise and freely express opinions.

Kabi Gangmei, a social worker based in Shillong who had recently visited the remote parts of Burma, observed that Myanmar’s future was secured only in a democratic set-up, where ethnic communities would be respected and resources shared equally. He said if India has to overtake China’s presence in Myanmar then it was only through democracy. In his concluding remarks, former MP of National League for Democracy, Dr. Tint Swe sought apology on behalf of Burmese nationals taking refuge in India for any wrong that they might have committed against India. He described India the best country in terms of sympathy.

The two-day workshop on 2012 by-elections in Burma was jointly organised by North Eastern Social Research Centre (NESRC) and Burma Centre Delhi (BCD) at North East Diocesan Social Forum, Guwahati on May 11 and 12, 2012.