Gathering Strength: Burma’s Ethnic Groups Meet in Malaysia
22 March 2010: A two-day seminar aimed at fostering closer cooperation among Burma’s ethnic Diaspora communities in Malaysia was held in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend.
The conference, jointly organized by the Coalition of Burma Ethnics Malaysia (CoBEM) and the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), brought together for the first time over 350 representatives from different ethnic groups, as well as, solidarity groups in Malaysia.
It follows a series of new developments inside Burma in recent weeks, including the announcement earlier this month of new election laws, as well as, renewed pressures on ethnic cease-fire groups and new military offensives by the military junta in ethnic areas ahead of the junta’s planned elections.
Malaysia is home to one of the largest refugee populations from Burma in the region.
Organizers say that the conference was a unique opportunity that allows members of the various Burma’s ethnic groups currently living in Malaysia to interact with each other, and with leading figures within the movement.
“We are very pleased to see so many young ethnic men and women participating in the conference and to be able to have frank discussion with them on so many important issues affecting the ethnic people in Burma,” says Victor Biak Lian of the Ethnic Nationalities Council.
The discussions center on major challenges currently facing Burma’s ethnic nationalities, including, the political and humanitarian crises, which continue to dog efforts toward national reconciliation and genuine democratic reforms in Burma.
One of the immediate outcomes of the conference was an agreement to strengthen cooperation among the ethnic groups through information sharing and working together toward a common cause.
Side events of the conference also include meeting and open discussion between visiting ethnic leaders and each of their respective ethnic community members. The visiting ethnic leaders are from Shan, Mon, Karen and Chin.