- By Mawsi
Photo : Htein Nan Naw
During the term of the incumbent government Ministry of Ethnic Affairs was formed to effectively and speedily implement socio-economic development that includes language, literature, arts, culture, tradition, religion, historical heritage, peace and constitutional rights of ethnic nationals.
Following is the interview conducted with Union Minister and responsible officials on the work conducted by the ministry during the second one year period to strengthen the union spirit and socio-economic development of the ethnic nationals.
Nai Thet Lwin, Union Minister, Ministry of Ethnic Affairs
Q. First explain about the aim of establishing the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs.
A. Myanmar is a country where ethnic nationals live together. Due to past events in the history, doubts and suspicion developed in ethnic nationals for not having equal rights and conflicts occurred. In order to obtain full constitutional rights, the Law on Protection of Ethnic Rights was enacted in 24 February 2015. As per this law the previous government formed the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and the ministry is now two years old.
Q. Explain about the vision of the ministry.
A. The vision of the ministry is to retain and develop the literature and culture of ethnic nationals. Their rights will be protected. The reason for doing this is to strengthen the union spirit and develop the socio-economic situation of the ethnic nationals. The rights are as set out in the law for ethnic nationals. There is a need to know the duties and responsibilities at the same time as obtaining the rights. Our society will develop only when duties, responsibilities and rights are equally valued.
Q. Explain about works implemented by the ministry.
A. The ministry helped in holding special days of ethnic nationals as enacted in the law. States/regions ethnic affairs ministers also support the ethnic nationals in the states/regions to hold ethnic national events.
Q. What has been done for education sector development of ethnic nationals?
A. Ethnic nationals lived in remote and far-off distant places where access to education was poor. Because of this, they lag behind in education and were exploited and used by some group of people. Now, they are having more opportunities for education. They can use their own language according to education policy and learn. In order for ethnic nationals to prosper in the union and internationally, they need to learn the language used in the union as well as international languages. To enable this, the ministry coordinated with Ministry of Education to employ ethnic national youths as Teaching Assistant (TA) so that ethnic national children can obtain quality learning through their own language resulting in creating job opportunities for ethnic national youths. Coordination will be continued with Ministry of Education so that more can be employed in other required areas.
Q. What has been done for ethnic nationals in coordination with other ministries?
A. Together with Ministry of Health and Sports, the ministry assisted and cooperated in translating information about Japanese Encephalitis vaccination project, H5N1 bird flu information posters, pamphlets and standard health facts booklets into ethnic national languages.
In response to proposals submitted by ethnic national villages on electrification, the ministry coordinated with Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Department of Rural Development to install solar power electrical system in villages that are more than 10 miles away from National Electrification Plan.
Q. Explain about the ministry constructing office buildings in states and regions.
A. Works were assigned to Ministry of Construction to build 80×60 ft. reinforced concrete two storey buildings in Kayin, Kayah, and Mon states, Bago and Ayeyawady regions with fund permitted in fiscal year 2017-2018. The building constructed in Mon State, Mawalamyine was opened on 19 March 2018 in commemoration of 44th anniversary of Mon State Day. Other buildings in states and regions will soon be opened.
Q. What are other additional things done for ethnic nationals?
A. Development and peace co-exist in sustainable development of the lives of the ethnic nationals. If there is peace, there can be development and peace can be maintained only if there is development. That is why the forum on Sustainable Development of Ethnic Nationals was held in Nay Pyi Taw in January 2018. At the forum economic development sector, peace and ethnic national media sector and sharing of ethnic national resources were discussed and 28 points were identified. The outcome was the establishment of Ethnic Entrepreneurs Association in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Yangon on 17 March 2018.
Q. Comment on what ought to be done between ethnic nationals for ethnic national rights.
A. Ethnic nationals in Myanmar lived in the hill, plain, delta and coastal areas. Due to the different geographical location, the language, literature and culture of ethnic nationals were different but all are human beings. As human beings, ethnic nationals cherish and value themselves while considering other ethnic nationals as their siblings and lived in unity with mutual respect, peace and democracy federal union that everyone yearn for will come into being.
At the present, the government is working hand in hand with ethnic nationals for national reconciliation and peace in the union. All ethnic nationals are urged to cooperate and work together to achieve this end.
U Min Aye Ko, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Ethnic Affairs
Q. Let us know if there is any special accomplishment for ethnic national affairs.
A. According to set procedures and instructions, applications to amend correct ethnic nationality in national identification cards of ethnic nationals can be made to relevant township offices with supporting documents. If the applications are assessed to be true, amendments were being made with the permission of Ministry of labour, Immigration and Population, National Registration and Citizenship Department Director General it is learnt.
In addition to this some ethnic nationals apply to put in prefixes in front of their names (eg. Saw, Sai, Min, Naw, Nan, Mi) according to their tradition in their personal records and this had been done accordingly. As per application, prefix in front of the names to identify male or female (such as Saw Hla Maung, Sai Hla Maung, Salai Hla Maung, Min Hla Muang, Naw Hla Hla Yi, Nan Hla Hla Yi, Mi Hla Hla Yi) were also being added in the applicants’ national identification cards.
Q. What is the ministry doing to fulfil the basic requirement of obtaining electrical power for the socio-economic development of ethnic nationals?
A. In coordination with Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Department of Rural Development, solar power electrical systems were being arranged to be installed in villages that are more than 10 miles away from National Electrification Plan (NEP). As per this plan, 43 villages in Yangon Region and Ayeyawady Region will have solar power electrical systems installed in fiscal year 2017-2018 and fiscal year 2018-2019 according to the information from relevant ministry.
Q. How is the ministry organised and what are its duties and responsibilities?
A. The ministry is made up of the Union Minister’s office, the Ethnical Literature and Culture Department and the Ethnic Rights Department. A total of 314 officers and staff were appointed.
As per arrangements made by states and regions governments, offices for the two departments under the ministry were being opened in states and regions. Offices were opened in Mawlamyine, Mon State; Monywa, Sagaing Region; Sittway, Rakhine State; Myitkyina, Kachin State; Loikaw, Kayah State, Mandalay, Mandalay Region; Haka, Chin State and Magway, Magway Region.
U Win Naing, Deputy Director General, Ethnical Literature and Culture Department
Q. What are the aims of the department and what are its achievements during the two-year period?
A. Strengthening of the national spirit and developing the socio-economic situation of the ethnic nationals are being aimed for by maintaining and raising the ethnic literature and culture.
During the two-year period of the government, poems, articles, books, video records of ethnic national literature, language, culture and historical relics were collected in the department’s library. A book on eight ethnic national languages was published within the department.
In addition to this, department’s offices were opened in Mon State, Kayin State, Sagaing Region, Rakhine State, Kachin State, Kayah State, Mandalay Region, Bago Region, Ayeyawady Region, Taninthayi Region, Chin State and Magway Region in fiscal year 2016-2017 and fiscal year 2017-2018.
Arrangements were made to publish the Law on Protection of Ethnic Rights in ethnic languages and had been published and distributed in 44 ethnic languages. Health related journals published by Ministry of Health and Sport, notices and posters published by UNICEF were also being translated into ethnic national languages.
Pamphlets describing the history, location, distinguished places, traditional festivals, dances, natural resources, traditional foods etc. of eight main ethnic nationals and 32 sub groups were being published in Myanmar-English languages. Arrangements are being made to publish facts about remaining sub groups. The traditional costumes and apparels of the eight main ethnic nationals, their tools and utensils, musical instruments etc. were being displayed in the ministry’s exhibition.
Ministry of Education was coordinated to appoint 5,161 Teaching Assistants to teach ethnic national languages. The ministry also assisted and supported the application of literature and culture groups in states and regions to Ministry of Home Affairs to form literature and culture committees. Teaching of ethnic literature and languages in basic education schools during summer holiday was also being conducted together with Ministry of Education.
Dr. L Tu Mane Gaung, Deputy Director General, Ethnical Rights Protection Department
Q. What are the aims and work processes of the department?
A. The aim of the department is to obtain the full rights and opportunities of the ethnic nationals. In doing this, it will be done without affecting the country’s security, rule of law, moral of the people and enacted laws. Another thing is to coordinate and resolve disagreements between ethnic nationals.
Q. What was done by the department during the two-year period?
A. Five offices were opened in states and regions in fiscal year 2017-2018. Staffs were appointed and these staffs were liaising with ethnic national organisations. At the same time, systematic arrangements were being made to work together with more ethnic organisations.
Requirements of the ethnic nationals were being fulfilled. Rules on Protection of Ethnic Rights will soon be enacted and based on it the rights of the ethnic nationals will be protected. Together with protecting these rights, there is a need to ensure that natural security, regional peace and stability are not affected.
Salai Haki, Chin national
It is good for all ethnic nationals like us that Ministry of Ethnic Affair was established. Why? Our country is a country that had many ethnic nationals. Our country ought to have a ministry that work for all ethnic nationals.
Law on Protection of Ethnic Rights is also needed. With the enactment of this law, ethnic nationals in ethnic regions can freely obtain the full rights.
Literature is the life of all nationals. Literature is required by all nationals. Without literature, we could not retain sustained existence. There are big and small ethnic nationals. Only through literature can we maintain all. Teaching of literature is the main thing here. If the ministry maintain and develop ethnic literature, we all will welcome the ministry.
Sai Tun Min Latt, Shan national
As an ethnic national, I welcome the establishment of the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs. With the establishment of this ministry, I think ethnic nationals will have their rights.The Law was enacted in 2015. Rules are being drawn up. Once the rules are also enacted, more can be done freely about ethnic literature and culture.
Shan State is huge. Many ethnic nationals are there. I want to say that there are some weaknesses in employing teachers. Some don’t know the subject in depth. Only teachers that know in depth can teach the children well. Literature is the lifeblood of a people. If literature disappears, so will the people. That is why literature is important.
It is good that the ministry came into being. Ethnic culture will develop. We will get our full rights while we fulfil our duties and responsibilities. It is important that we do this and achieve peace and development together.
(Translated by ZM)