April 13, 2021

Man on mission to raise awareness about people of Burma

CG Notes: Below for your information , Salai Za Ceu Lian’s personal interview with Winnipeg Free Press was conducted by Janine LeGal, a Columnist of Winnipeg Free Press, a Canadian Local Newspaper, one of the leading newspapers in Manitoba Province, Canada).

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

Man on mission to raise awareness about people of Burma

Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

By Janine LeGal

Za Ceu Lian, 25, was born in the Chin state of Burma, a country of 43 million people rife with human rights abuses and political conflict.

The army has controlled the country’s government since a 1962 coup. The State Peace and Development Council is the current name of Burma’s military junta. There are currently over 1,500 political prisoners in Burma, people who have voiced opinions against the regime and been arrested for it.

The lack of freedom in his home country affected every part of his life. Lian’s involvement in pro-democracy student demonstrations put his safety at risk. In 1998, he fled for his life, leaving behind his parents, one brother and two sisters.

He travelled three days on foot to neighbouring India, where he asked representatives from the United Nations for protection.

“I grew up under fear. We are so afraid of the military, army and soldiers. That means we don’t have any sense of a peaceful mind. We have to be worrying about something every day,” Lian says.

While in New Dehli, where he worked as a journalist covering news from Burma, there was pressure on the Indian government by the Burmese military leaders, and his editor was harassed and eventually arrested.

Lian realized he was not safe there either, and he would have to look for freedom elsewhere. He found his way to the Canadian Embassy, was sponsored by our government, and within less than one year, was in Winnipeg.

Arriving in December 2002, Lian credits Welcome Place, a local organization committed to helping newcomers, for easing the transition to his new life. He is grateful to the Canadian government for supporting the Burmese people and for accepting Burmese refugees as part of their sponsorship program.

For Lian, being in Winnipeg is a very new experience.

“The people are friendly. It’s a peaceful land. There is cultural diversity and freedom. I can express my opinions. I not only breathe the air of freedom here but I also realize that I have value and dignity as a human being,” says Lian. Local churches have also played an important role since his arrival in the city.

“The Maples Community Church and International Worship Centre have been very helpful in several ways; they help us find jobs, and give us information. They are very concerned about us, the people are so nice to us.”

Though his dedication and commitment to the Burmese people is his obvious passion, Lian does try to make time for socializing. “I meet with friends, share, and talk about politics.”

When he has time, he watches CNN and listens to country music and native songs from his home town.

Lian maintains that it is critically important for the Burmese people to have links with the broader community. He acts as secretary for the Burmese Community Organization of Manitoba, which has about 40 members.

“Part of our mission is to help the Burmese people integrate into Canadian society. We want our voices to be heard. We want to be visible,” explains Lian.

Communication with his family in Burma is limited. Phone calls are monitored, and letters are examined at every checkpoint. He is deprived of his freedom to communicate and the Burmese people are deprived of any news from outside of the country.

Being cautious about everything is always on his mind, but Lian’s commitment to his people is evident in everything he says and does.

“We don’t have any basic rights to decide our future for ourselves. Under the racist military regime in Burma, people are persecuted because of ethnicity or religion. There is no freedom of speech or expression.”

He spends countless hours doing advocacy work on behalf of the Burmese people, writing articles, reading and doing research.

“Until and unless we get democracy in my country, I can’t go back,” adds Lian.

Lian will continue to take an active leadership role in finding freedom for Burma. He is upgrading his education in preparation for university, where he plans to study business administration and political science as pre-requisite for entering into Law. He hopes to eventually work as a lawyer and continue to find ways to help the people of his country.

“In most free societies under a democratic government, like in Canada, human rights are taken for granted,” Lian affirms.

Raising awareness about the people of Burma is his mission.

Salai Za Ceu Lian could be reached through electronic mail : [email protected], [email protected]



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