Sunday, March 24, 2013

23-3-2013 Consultation for Peace and Human Rights in Burma (Myanmar)

A one-day “Consultation for Peace and Human Rights in Burma (Myanmar)” was held at EBCC Conference Hall, New Lamka, Manipur on March 23 2013. The programme was organised by Burma Centre Delhi (BCD) and hosted by Zomi Human Rights Foundation (ZHRF).

Ex-MP National League for Democracy (Burma), Dr. Tint Swe extended full support to the moves taken by NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He expressed optimism about the possibilities of good changes in 2015 in Burma but said the real problem was that many people do not trust the army generals ruling the country. With Burma policy of open door policy, Dr. Swe said Western countries were penetrating the country at a very fast pace. However, he described such entry as a kind of exploitation. “Burma is going to be exploited by new exploiters,” he remarked. He said while other countries were moving at a fast pace, India was still maintaining its traditional pace. He stressed on the need for India to compete with others. He pointed out that the connectivity between India and Burma was only on papers and newspapers. Emphasizing on the importance of ethnic reconciliation, Dr. Swe solicited the support of ethnic groups in India for democracy and peace process inside Burma.

Chairman of Naga National League for Democracy, U Saw Sa said that the present constitution was military made and that the constitution should be drafted with people’s mandate. “We don’t yet fully believe them (military government) as they have done many mischievous things in the past and indulged in inhuman activities,” U Saw Sa said. If they really love the citizens why should they do that, he argued. He said that the same people who have harassed the civilians were still ruling the country and added it was because of this that the people hesitate to trust them. He said NNLD demands federalism basing on which they want political status in Burma.

Coordinator of BCD, Dr. Alana Golmei spoke on the topic “Ongoing Reform Process in Burma and Role of Civil Society.” Dr. Alana noted that while major reform efforts were underway in various aspects of national life some remained sceptical of the reform’s actual effectiveness in practice as significance challenges lie ahead.

Although tentative peace agreements have been signed with prominent armed ethnic opposition groups, there is renewed fighting in Kachin State and northern Shan State, she said. “Without a political solution, it will be a far distant dream to achieve genuine democracy, peace, as well as sustainable and equitable development in Burma,” Dr. Alana said.

Although natural resources will be largely extracted from ethnic areas, she expressed doubt whether and to what extent the economic reforms will benefit the majority, especially ethnic populations in the borderlands.

On the human rights issue, Dr. Alana expressed concern about the freedom of assembly still being restricted as there are more cases of activists, workers, and human rights defenders charged under the Peaceful Gathering and Demonstration Law. Quoting AAPP-B, Dr. Alana said there are still 222 political prisoners in Burma. She also said that Forcible recruitment of child soldiers still continues in Burma.

Another coordinator of BCD, Kim spoke about the ethnic grievances and said that the highest percentage of the people living in poverty are confined within the ethnic states: Chin state (73%), Rakhine state (44%) and Shan state (33%). He said the ethnic areas lack in electricity supply, proper roads and other basic infrastructures. He also said there was unfair and unjust distribution of revenue extracted from the natural resources by government.

Kim highlighted some of the demands of the ethnic armed groups which include amnesty/legalization of ethnic groups, cultural and environmental protection, resettlement/integration of refugees and soldiers etc.

Suanmoi Guite from Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defender (IPHRD) presented a paper on “Deep Rooted Causes of Burmese Refugees and Economic Migrants in Manipur, North East India.”

Speaking on the impacts of fencing proposal to Indo-Burma border, he said that the International border fencing proposed by MHA in the interest of Indian internal security could deny the cultural rights of the Indigenous tribal people across the International border of India. He said the indigenous tribal people across the border known as the Indigenous Zo People have been living in Chin State Burma since times immemorial.

He focused on the problems of the Indigenous Zo people faced in education, health facilities and developmental aspects. Suanmoi said access to health services was far away for Indigenous Tribal Peoples of Chin State. Instead of access to health services in Rangoon, it is easier and more convenient to access their right to health care in Churachanpur District Hospital or in Public Health Service Centre in Singngat Sub Division, Churachandpur, he added.

Regarding the overall development in the International borders areas of Burma, Suanmii said there was no such kind of infrastructures set up in these areas. “In spite, there is reign of terror. Indigenous peoples are the victims from the Army personnel.

K. Filip Sumi from The Morung Express, a Dimapur based daily newspaper spoke on the “Role of the Media in Peace and Human Rights in the Region (India-Burma).” He said while the international community is was applauding the Burmese government for initiating changes in its transition towards democracy, people were also aware that serious human rights abuses are continuing in Burma. He said Burma’s international image will never reach its peak of acceptance by the world as long it fails to release its remaining political prisoners. Pointing out the importance of media which can be of great assistance in conflict management and peace building, Sumi said that the media must go beyond ethnical and responsible reporting and get actively involved in human rights issues.

Stating that the media can play a role in escalating conflicts as well as the power to defuse tensions, he said that the role of the media is to stay clear of judgemental representations and describe reality without embellishment. Sumi said that the media must also try to give publicity to the individuals and organisations which are engaged in securing human rights. This will encourage as well as motivate others to do similar work, he added.

Issued by,
Burma Centre Delhi and Zomi Human Rights Foundation