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Change: That is not happening in Burma

Submitted by on May 19, 2011 – 3:18 pmOne Comment

While the world media reports with the factual supports from various sources inside and outside Burma (Myanmar) that the poverty stricken country is changing, but in realty that exactly is not happening in the so-called democratic set-up.

Officially the Southeast Asian country has transformed into a democracy after the 2010 November general election, but the ground realities for the poor Burmese remain the same. And the outcome is the continuous fleeing of Burmese to neighbouring India, Bangladesh and Thailand. If the earlier exodus was of pro-democracy political activists, now more and more common Burmese are leaving the country for better live and living in abroad.

For India, the burden of refugees primarily from Chin State of Burma is carried by Mizoram. With its around10 lakh population, the Burma and Bangladesh bordering Indian State gives shelter to nearly 80,000 migrants. Leaving aside two thousand Burmese recognized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and staying in New Delhi, the rest are scattered in Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur.

Facing the situation, the Mizoram government also finds it difficult to deal the migrants from Burma. As India does not have a refugee policy, it often emerges as a major challenge for both the authority and the civil society groups in a situation like that of Mizoram. The Indian people in general support international refugees with their traditional mercy and kindness. While the UNHCR has limited operations in the country, the government, the judiciary and local rights groups always extend support to the asylum seekers with their limited capacities.

A consultation meeting at the Mizoram capital, Aizawl on May 6 highlighted many such issues relating to Burma and its exodus to India. Organized by Burma Centre Delhi in collaboration with Chin Human Rights Organizations (Aizawl), Grassroot Development Network (Mizoram) and hosted by Zo Indigenous Forum, the meeting was attended by various civil society groups, journalists and activists of Northeast India.

Addressing the gathering, Vanlal Ngaia, Chairman of Mizoram Committee for Democracy in Burma reiterated that the regime change in Burma does not seem to bring any change in the condition of pro-democracy activists and general people of Burma.

“The only change we have seen is the military uniform into civil dresses. Therefore people preferring for democracy around the world should work persistently for full restoration of true democracy in Burma,” he added. His point of views was whole heartedly supported by Dr Tint Swe, a Burmese political leader taking asylum in India, who argued that the recently concluded general election in Burma has not brought any changes to the peoples of Burma.

“The country is still being ruled by the same group of military under the camouflage of a democratic regime,” asserted Dr Swe, who was elected to Burmese Parliament in 1990 election under the leadership of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but they were never allowed to rule the country. The senior member of Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy, Dr Tint Swe also tendered apology for all anti-social activities carried out by a section of Chin people in Mizoram. He admitted that the unethical works done by some Chin asylum seekers only increased the tension between the Mizo people and the refugees.

Dr Alana Golmei, advocacy coordinator of BCD also urged the people of India especially from the Northeast to work together for sustaining peace and human rights in the region and also in Burma. Emphasizing on more people to people contact between the Northeast and Burma, Dr Alana also claimed that no real change is happening in Burma if one
looks at the worst human rights situation in the country.

“The people of Mizoram have a deep relation with Burma as our Chin brother and sisters live there. My understanding is that Mizo, Chin and Kuki are the same people with same religious and linguistic identity. That is why we feel pain when our Chin brothers face problem and suffer under the regime of Burma,” commented Muanpuia Punte, vice-president of Northeast Students Organization.

The meeting was also addressed by Salai Za Uk Ling (Chin Human Rights Organization), C Lalremruata (Zo Indigenous Forum), Pu Kim (BCD), N Thakuria (journalist), Zampuii (Grassroot Development Network) with others and concluded with some resolutions.

The resolution varied from appealing New Delhi for not supporting the Burmese government with arms, engaging both Burmese government & also Suu Kyi as well as ethnic groups, allowing the UNHCR to establish its office in Mizoram or in the Northeast, and ensuring that any current and future Indian investments in Burma is both fair and responsible. It also appealed to the people of India for continuous support to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma by its people.

“Though many historic political events have taken place in the last few months including the November election, release of pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi from house arrest, running Parliament sessions at Nay Pie Taw and the demolition of the SPDC, but these changes are not adequate for the people,” said Pu Kim. He also added that both the Burma polls and its 2008 Constitution were criticized and condemned by the UN, the EU and Burmese pro-democracy campaigners for adopting undemocratic norms and rejection of democratic principles and human rights.

Photo: Christoph Amthor

About the author

Nava Thakuria wrote 5 articles on this blog.

Nava Thakuria is a journalist from Guwahati, India. He is a long-standing expert on Burma issues, especially in the Northeast Indian region.

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