Eth­nic af­fairs group puts for­ward de­vel­op­ment agenda

The Myanmar Times - - News - SHOON NAING news­room@mm­times.com

A NEW eth­nic af­fairs or­gan­i­sa­tion has col­lated a 50-page de­vel­op­ment agenda and plans to present it as a pri­or­ity list to par­lia­ment.

The Eth­nic Peo­ple De­vel­op­ment Part­ner­ship (EPDP) cre­ated the man­i­festo, en­ti­tled “Ad­vice for the Peo­ple”, to lobby for sev­eral key is­sues in eth­nic ar­eas in­clud­ing labour con­di­tions, farm­ing prac­tices, nat­u­ral resource governance, en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment, de­vel­op­ment and in­vest­ment.

EPDP gen­eral sec­re­tary U Tun Myint Aung said there are cur­rently ma­jor short­com­ings in the reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment gov­ern­ing eth­nic ar­eas.

While the group’s sub­mis­sion is not an ex­haus­tive pol­icy doc­u­ment, nor a com­pre­hen­sive data sur­vey, he says it pro­vides a snap­shot of on­the-ground is­sues fac­ing eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties. He hopes it will help law­mak­ers gain a greater un­der­stand­ing of the chal­lenges faced in eth­nic re­gions, and that its con­tents will be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when MPs and the gov­ern­ment for­mu­late pol­icy.

“We are not law ex­perts but [the man­i­festo high­lights] the weak­ness of en­force­ment of the law re­gard­ing these is­sues … We have knowl­edge from the ground about their losses and the un­fair­ness [eth­nic peo­ple have] ex­pe­ri­enced. So, we would like to ad­vise the gov­ern­ment through par­lia­men­tar­i­ans,” he said.

An in­tro­duc­tion to the doc­u­ment – a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort from a va­ri­ety of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions – was held last week at the Taw Win Hnin Si restau­rant in Yan­gon’s Ba­han town­ship. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of civil so­ci­ety were in at­ten­dance, along with lower and up­per house MPs. De­spite EPDP hav­ing ex­tended an of­fi­cial in­vi­ta­tion, no des­ig­nated gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive was present, U Tun Myint Aung said.

“This is the first ad­vi­sory doc­u­ment from us in the new gov­ern­ment pe­riod. We will [send this] via the of­fi­cial chan­nel, which is the post of­fice, and we will also meet again with the gov­ern­ment and con­tinue the process,” he said.

The 88 Gen­er­a­tion Peace and Open So­ci­ety mem­ber U Mya Aye at­tended the launch of the ad­vi­sory doc­u­ment and voiced sup­port for the ini­tia­tive.

“CSOs should sup­port and help out the gov­ern­ment with this kind of ad­vice,” he said.

Sai Nyunt Lwin from the Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy said the doc­u­ment did an ad­e­quate job of rep­re­sent­ing the con­cerns of marginalised pop­u­la­tions.

“The ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion are real, ba­sic re­quire­ments, as far as I ob­served. It is a very ef­fec­tive idea,” he said.

Daw Ye Ye Ht­way, the EPDP sec­re­tary, said the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s mis­sion is to work to im­prove the ba­sic liv­ing con­di­tions for all of Myan­mar’s eth­nic groups. She said their ul­ti­mate aim is to cre­ate a so­ci­ety grounded in a mean­ing­ful, in­clu­sive fed­er­al­ism and true peace.

“The pur­pose of the EPDP is to work for free­dom, equal­ity and fair­ness for the peo­ple from eth­nic re­gions and states, and we will openly com­mu­ni­cate and con­nect with ev­ery­one while work­ing,” she said.

“The coun­try is in tran­si­tion so the role of CSOs is very im­por­tant at this time. If the gov­ern­ment takes [ad­vice] from CSOs, there will be a great ad­van­tage in hear­ing the voices from the ground level,” U Tun Myint Aung said.

Cre­ation of a new Eth­nic Af­fairs Min­istry was among the first acts of the Na­tional League for Democ­racy gov­ern­ment upon as­sum­ing power in late March, though the na­ture of the min­istry’s port­fo­lio re­mains largely ill-de­fined.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

A Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army soldier walks along­side a civil­ian on a hill­top over­look­ing Mai Ja Yang, Kachin State, in July.

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