“The Ministry of Ethnic Affairs is working with other ministries to unify all nationalities, nurture the Union spirit and instil a sense of togetherness, provide them with greater knowledge, and encourage their high literacy rate.”
Union Minister Nai Thet Lwin
- By Nandar Win
Photos by Aye Than
- By Nandar Win
Enveloped in unity and unison, the Panglong Agreement was successfully signed and reached in Panglong, Southern Shan State, among Bogyoke Aung San and ethnic national leaders 72 years ago.
As the commitments of the agreement failed to realize, mistrust and doubts brew among the brethren across the nation, resulting armed conflicts, and that peace and joy in the country is faded away in oblivion.
Chewing up all the bitterness and drawing sad lessons in the chronicle of the country for 72 years, the ethnic nationalities are yearning and wanted to implement the union dream conceived in Panglong. The Ethnic Rights Protection Law was enacted in 2015 and the tasks are ongoing for the equal rights of the ethnic nationalities. Thus, the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs was form on 30 March 2016.
With regards to the tasks of the ministry, Union Minister Nai Thet Lwin said that the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs is working in cooperation with other ministries in garnering the unity of the nationalities, nurturing union spirit and sense of togetherness, providing them with greater knowledge, encouraging them for their growth of high literacy rate.
Meanwhile, political discussions on Union Peace Conference- 21st Century Panglong are held for achieving internal peace and for building democratic federal union with the strength of the nationalities.
The ethnic nationalities have high expectations for building a democratic federal union with equal development approach.
Under the guidance of the incumbent government, the emerging new ministry is working with five missions in its implementation.
Deputy Minister U Hla Maw Oo explained the missions as follows.
1. To promote solidarity, mutual amity and respect, reciprocal assistance as such Union spirit among ethnic groups;
2. To fully obtain the rights prescribed in the Ethnic Rights Protection Law;
3. To preserve and develop language, literature, history, fine art, culture heritages and customs;
4. To create favorable environment for preserving the ethnic groups’ original characteristics;
5. To promote socioeconomic development including education, health, economy, transportation and communication in ethnic groups areas.
In all 14 states and regions, Offices of Directors have been commissioned and are functioning.
The Deputy Minister explained that six offices for state and region level have been already in operation and that more offices are on the arrangement for opening soon.
The state and region offices are opened in Kayin, Kayah, Mon states and Bago, Ayeyawaddy and Yangon regions and functioning well.
The officers and staff members are recruited from the locality in the areas and assigned at the offices of the Directors at the state and region levels, and that vital matters are submitted to the Union Government.
The Union Minister said that the local produce of the ethnic nationalities have been hooked up with the developed market in developed areas, and for the continued development, the business associations are being formed through the forums.
As a result, it was one of the myriad interesting scenes at the Myanmar Ethnics Culture Festival in Yangon, which gathered people from the 135 ethnic groups in the country to showcase their products, cultures and traditions.
To encourage ethnic entrepreneurs and sustainable development in their regions, the Myanmar Ethnic Entrepreneurs Association (MEEA) was formed on 17 March 2018.
During the “Myanmar Ethnics Culture Festival” in Yangon positive road map for prosperity has been laid down despite the challenges being encountered.
Emeritus Professor Dr. U Aung Htun Thet of the ethnic association said that there are conflicts since regaining independence in 1948 connected with the ethnic nationalities, and that the ministry is trying its best for the getting peace and in trust building among the ethnic nationalities.
It is linking up with the economic development and the peace. The association is being formed not with the purpose for doing business, but to encourage and to support the ethnic nationalities to engage in functional business.
He said that all the colorful attires and personal accessories of (135) ethnic nationalities of Myanmar have fine attractions in exporting and selling into the international markets. They are much similar to the tradition and culture of (10) nations ASEAN countries and that commercial exchange could be possible if tried. The nationalities are in need of relevant laws and that we have to welcome the laws that protect and take care of the ethnic nationalities.
At the “Myanmar Ethnics Culture Festival” held at Kyaikkasan ground from 25 to 30 January 2018, “Miss Ethnic Myanmar 2019” pageant had been staged with a view to select and entrusted as goodwill Ambassador for Myanmar Ethnic Entrepreneurs Association (MEEA).
Manau Dance of Kachin nationality has been staged at the festival, and that all nationalities participated in the show, reflecting the unity and strength of the nationalities. In the upcoming years, dances of other nationalities would be dramatized.
The Deputy Minister is of the view that the unity of the ethnic nationalities is very much vital for peace implementation in the country.
The “Myanmar Ethnics Culture Festival” has been organized to help understand the diverse cultures and traditions of the nationalities; to help and assist the desired peace; to show the beauty of the nationalities to the people including the foreigners; to enhance the tourism industry; to introduce the local produces; and to find job opportunities for the youth.
Joint General Secretary Minn Banyar Sann said that we are not business people doing big jobs, but to encourage and help assist in the emergence of business people and entrepreneurs among the ethnic nationalities.
Five committed missions are as follows.
1. To promote solidarity, mutual amity and respect, mutual assistance as such Union spirit among ethnic groups;
2. To fully obtain the rights prescribed in the Ethnic Right Protection Laws;
3. To preserve and develop language, literature, history, fine art, culture heritages and customs;
4. To create flexible environment for preserving the ethnic groups original characters;
5. To promote socioeconomic development including education; health, economy, transportation and communication in ethnic groups areas.
The State Counsellor attended the 70th anniversary of Pa-O National Day held in Nay Pyi Taw.
The Deputy Minister U Hla Maw Oo said that he and the union minister usually graced the memorial days being held in Nay Pyi Taw, and that only when they were tied up with other commitment they assigned director-generals to attend the functions.
The Nay Pyi Taw excursion trip was organized by inviting ethnic nationalities from Rakhine State, Shan State (North), Bago Region, and that lessons were imparted that the development of other states and regions similar to Nay Pyi Taw is to get the peace in the nation.
In addition to peace, the vast knowledge, and the four cardinal virtues are required for development and peace.
In February and in March 2019, the excursion trips were organized for ethnic nationalities from many states and regions to Nay Pyi Taw and also staged a meeting for the exchange of views.
Moreover an exchange of view was conducted with the students from Mandalay Social Science Institute (MSSI).
In line with the second objective, the arrangement is being made to ensure in fulfilling the rights in accordance with the laws without any discrimination in full guarantee to have the rights mentioned in the State Constitution.
Deputy Minister U Hla Maw Oo said that it is necessary in drafting carefully for new by-laws to ensure access and equality, and that the draft for Strategy on Nationalities Rights is in the process.
Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No 8/2015 has enacted Law Protecting Ethnic Rights has been enacted.
The by-law to protect the right of the ethnic minorities would be approved as it has been going on in cooperation, said Minister for the Karen Ethnic Affairs of the Mon State Government on 2 February 2019. The draft has been forwarded to the Union Attorney General Office.
Awareness raising talks have been earmarked to deliver for (61) events in 2018-2019, and that 29 talks have been already realized.
In accordance with the responses from the ethnic nationalities, “The Strategic Plan (Draft) for the Rights of the Ethnic Nationalities in Myanmar” is to be reviewed through the workshops and seminars.
The plan period is for 10 years from 2019 to 2028 in the form of master strategy, and then year by year plan is to be drawn in details through priority, said Dr. L Tu Meang Gaung, Director General of the Department of Ethnic Rights.
The priority sectors have been selected in the 2019-2028 Strategic Plan and that various themes are included such as that of rights and responsibilities; that of socio-economic developments; that of identifying correct tribes and clans; that of protection of women against violence; that of gender equality; that of protection from human trafficking; that of preserving culture and tradition; that of preserving the near extinct tribes; that of prevention from drug addiction; that of advance discussions of regional development issues with the participation of local people; that of preserving herbal plants; that of addressing issues; and that of reviewing over conflicts.
The implementation of third aim and objective included that of ethnic nationalities; languages; literature; history; arts; culture; preservation of national heritages; traditional dances; and etc.
During January 2019, the capacity building training and course on preservation of intangible culture and heritage has been conducted in cooperation with Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture.
During February 2019, the Workshop on Preservation and Protection of Cultural in Myanmar was conducted with the cooperation of Geneva Call Organization that elevated the capacity of the staff members.
In the context of ethnic nationalities in Myanmar, there are tangle cultural heritage (TCH) and intangible cultural heritage (ICH). There are 135 ethnic nationalities in Myanmar and have abundant and profuse own intangible cultural heritage. The ministry has planned to collect these heritages into data and would submit to the State.
With a view to impart knowledge on that subject, a knowledge sharing course was conducted in Nay Pyi Taw for the staff members and officers of the ministry, with the objective to disseminate information to the posterity and upcoming generation, said Museum professional and expert Dr. Nu Mya Zan.
During 2018-2019, the plan is underway to print over 750,000 copies of ethnic nationalities’ stories, legends and fables in booklets with illustration in
66 languages for pre-primary school students for their educational development.
Deputy Director-General U Win Naing of the Department of Ethnical Literature and Culture said the task is being carried out with the view to exchanging literature and culture among the nationalities in fostering unity, and on the other hand, it encourages and helpful for the emergence of peace and democracy federal union.
The printing of 66 categories of books are to be implemented through open tender system and that the books are to be distributed to the cultural teams. Many books on ethnic nationalities are in the process of printing for the greater good of the nationalities.
The fourth mission and objective is for preserving the ethnic groups’ original characters and its environment including ethnic languages, literature, culture, tradition, historical heritages, and that the tasks are being implemented through workshops and training courses.
The relevant assignments and tasks including the protection of intangible cultural heritages have been maintained through pragmatic approach. Moreover, a documentary film on “Hta Nawt” ethnic tribe residing at Taungbo Hla Village in Kalaw Township have been successfully conducted, said Deputy Director- General U Win Naing.
The fifth mission and aim is to promote socioeconomic development including education, health, economy, transportation and communication in ethnic groups’ areas. The plans have been carried out in cooperation and coordination with other ministries, non-governmental organizations. During 2017-2018, total of 5181 teaching assistants have been recruited in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. Moreover, language teachers would be appointed for the benefits of the nationalities.
The educational booklets, posters and handouts on healthcare published from the UNICEF have been translated into ethnic languages and distributed.
The Ministry of Health and Sports of Myanmar and the UNICEF have published a standardized and ideal book on healthcare information in Myanmar language, and that the book under referral is to be translated into 55 ethnic languages for the nationalities.
During 2018-2019 fiscal year, 30 villages in Yangon Region and Ayeyawady Region have been provided with solar power electricity generating system in cooperation with other ministries for all round development.
A Chinese delegation headed by Vice Minister Mr. Li Changping, State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China visited Myanmar in November 2018 and discussed with union minister, Hluttaw members and other officials on bilateral matters on development issues of the nationalities. The Chinese side candidly suggested some ethnic nationalities to come forward to the peace talks without resolving with arms. An MoU was signed for the further development of ethnic nationalities of two countries.
A Chinese delegation led by Mr. Li Faun, Chairman of the Myanmar-China Economic Cooperation Development Promotion Association, called on Union Minister for Ethnic Affairs Nai Thet Lwin at the latter’s office in Nay Pyi Taw in February 2019. At the meeting, they cordially and openly discussed and exchanged views on matters related to peace and stability at the border areas of China and Myanmar and the socio economic development of local ethnic people there, cooperation between the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of China, conducting China-Myanmar ethnics festivals likes Yangon’s ethnics culture festival in a bid to develop ethnic areas-based tourism sector and stepping up efforts for bilateral cooperation in ethnic affairs.
In the development plans of the ministry, many tasks are underway such as that of the construction of new buildings; that of providing job opportunities for the ethnic nationalities; that of capacity buildings of the staff members and officers; that of celebrating traditional festivals on significant days; that of displaying attires and accessories of ethnic nationalities.
As the armed conflicts are still going on in the country since regaining independence in 1948, efforts are to be exerted by all means including discussions through Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong to get a solution for peace.
Dr. L Tu Meang Gaung said that as our country mainly needs peace and therefore we have to reduce the sentiments and displeasure of disparity among the ethnic nationalities. With a view to implementing a democracy federal union successfully, our department would earnestly take part in the endeavor.
Panglong Spirit means a specific courage of the brethren with equality and justice in the construction for the peace and nation building, and that we are on our way to have the Panglong Spirit among us.
In conclusion, the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs is working to the best of its capacities for the greater good and advantages of the ethnic nationalities through cooperation and coordination with other departments, UN agencies, development partners, social associations, civil societies, and that stepping ahead straight forward in that right direction.
Translated by UMT (Ahlon)