Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urges legislation for ethnic equality

By Soe Than Lynn
Volume 32, No. 637
July 30 - August 05, 2012

NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi addresses the Pyithu Hluttaw on July 25 in her first speech to parliament.
Pic: AFP

DAW Aung San Suu Kyi last week urged the Pyithu Hluttaw to amend and enact laws to safeguard the rights of ethnic minorities “with the Pinlon spirit”, a reference to the historic conference overseen by her father that helped ensure Myanmar’s independence.

The representative for Kawhmu, in her first address to parliament on July 25, said laws should be introduced based “on equality, mutual respect and trust”.

Twenty-seven representatives applied to discuss the proposal of Union Solidarity and Development Party member U T Hkun Myat, the representative for Kutkai, who proposed that laws should be enacted to protect the rights of ethnic people.

“Safeguarding the rights of ethnic people is about more than the preservation of their language and culture,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.

“I urge discussion by all representatives to bring about a real democratic union based on equality, mutual respect and trust that is not different from and cannot be kept separate from the Pinlon spirit, and to amend and enact laws as necessary to safeguard the rights of the ethnic peoples. I hereby second the proposal of U T Hkun Myat,” she said.

Hluttaw representatives began debating the proposal on July 24, the 13th day of the fourth Pyithu Hluttaw session. Nine representatives, including four from the National League for Democracy – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Ohn Kyaing of Mahaaungmyay, U Kyaw Thiha of Pyin Oo Lwin and U Min Thu of Ottarathiri – discussed it on July 25.

In her presentation, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi used figures from the Asian Development Bank to highlight the extent of poverty in areas dominated by ethnic minorities.

“In our country, the places stricken with the worst poverty are states. Chin State’s poverty rate, according to Asian Development Bank statistics, is 73.3 percent, eastern Shan State’s is 46.4pc, northern Shan State is 37.2pc, southern Shan State is 25.1pc and the average in Shan State is 39.1pc. Rakhine State’s poverty rate is 43.5pc,” she said.

“The poverty rate for Myanmar as a whole is 25.6pc so it is noticeable that it is higher in these states. Similarly, in Kachin State it is 28.6pc – higher than the average. In contrast, Mon, Kayah and Kayin states have lower rates … it is obvious that development of our states is not satisfactory.

“Additionally, the fire of internal conflict has failed to be extinguished,” she said, adding that conflict in Shan and Kachin states and the state of emergency in Rakhine State only served to increase poverty.

– Translated by Thit Lwin