Monday, May 14, 2012

14-5-2012 Indian workshop looks at Burma’s ethnic policy

Monday, 14 May 2012 13:01 Mizzima News
(Mizzima) – Northeast India has a strong interests in ethnic events in Burma, and Burmese ethnic groups in India should try to influence the India government’s “Look East” policy, Dr. Walter Fernandes, the chairman of the North Eastern Social Research Centre (NESRC), said last week at a conference in Delhi.

“There are the same ethnic communities living in the northeast and Myanmar, divided by the international border. The reforms and the successful by-election have kindled hope for people-to-people contact between the two sides. There is a prospect for both sides to learn from each other through increasing engagement. Assam should take the lead in this regard,” Fernandes said.

A two-day workshop on the by-election was jointly organized by NESRC in Guwahati and the Burma Centre Delhi (BCD).

Ethnic policies in Burma will have significant consequence in India, which is the home for many ethnic refugees from Burma, conference members noted.

A former MP of the National League for Democracy, Dr. Tint Swe, said the once flourishing Moreh trade centre in India “has become deserted” at a time when India was talking about connectivity with Burma.

Dr. Swe said although there is a democratic transition taking place, democracy still hangs in the balance, and he was apprehensive about the future.

He strongly advocated people-to-people contact in northeast India to drum up support to amend the Burmese constitution that was drafted by the military government. The involvement of civil society groups in extra-parliamentary activities will help Burma in the process of democratization, he said.

The chairman of Naga National League for Democracy (NNLD) in exile, Saw Sa, said Nagas of Burma are the most neglected ethnic group and even now there are no proper roads, schools, electricity, water supply or health care centres in their area.

The few kilometres of road are roughly constructed, he said, making it difficult for vehicles to travel. The main NNLD objective is to fight for restoration of democracy in Burma and the creation of political status and equality for Nagas in Burma, he said.

A Naga leader, Tangsoi Khongo, said the Nagas in Burma are trying to cope with the sudden changes taking place there. Forced labour is still going on, and those refusing to work are jailed, he said.

The director of the Zo Indigenous Forum, Lalremruata Rema, presented a paper on “Social and Legal status of Chin Refugees in Mizoram.” He said the number of Chins in Mizoram was more than 10 per cent of the total population.