Wed 8 Feb 2012
Filed under: News
Despite positive development in the democratisation of Burma, Thailand-based activists say additional support is needed, especially when it comes to ethnic minorities. They said it is too early to say that Burma is firmly on the road to democracy, especially when it comes to the rights and liberty of ethnic minorities.“Burma’s democratisation has not touched the ethnic minority yet,” said Naruemon Tabchumpol, Chulalongkorn University political scientist and a board member of the Bangkok-based Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma.
Naruemon said many ethnic-minority prisoners have yet to be released, especially those facing criminal charges because they are not recognised as political prisoners.
What’s more, she said, Burma has yet to hold genuine peace talks involving ethnic minorities. She said true democracy could not be achieved until there is peaceful and respectful coexistence amongst various ethnic groups in Burma.
“They do not just need peace and a ceasefire deal, but a proper political package,” she said, admitting that funding for their work in Thailand was dropping and that most of it was being directly channelled into Burma itself. She cited the European Union as an example along with some NGOs from Germany, which are now committing more resources within Burma and less in Thailand.
Charm Tong, leader of the Chiang Mai-based Shan Women’s Action Network, which works with thousands of refugees and displaced people along the Thai-Burmese border, said these people need continuous assistance.
“It’s necessary, because many are still under threat,” she said, adding that foreign-funded mega-projects, such as the Salween Dam, are leading to new waves of displacement. Also, she said, that despite a ceasefire, about a quarter of the Burmese army was still in Shan-controlled areas.
“The Kachin are also still fighting and in Shan state, Burmese troops have yet to pull out,” Charm Tong said.
She hopes that there will be talk of a permanent ceasefire and political solution, but she admitted that there was still no telling if the situation would reverse forcing more people to flee into Thailand.
“Many villagers are still being attacked by Burmese soldiers,” she said, adding that many activists working on democracy and development-related issues in Burma were still living on the Thai side of the border.