President Obama Urged to Meet with Burma’s Ethnic Leaders
17 November 2012: The Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) has called on President Obama to press Burmese government on ethnic issues during his visit to a diverse SE Asian country of Burma.
In a letter written to Barack Obama, ENC said the President should meet with Burma’s ethnic leaders from both inside and outside of the country and consider their grievances.
Dr. Lian H. Sakhong, Chairman of exile-based ENC, said: “While we welcome the number of ceasefire agreements made, the country cannot move forward until a substantive political dialogue is held between all ethnic stakeholders and the Government.”
“For years, ethnic conflict has played a major part in the country’s political landscape and while the government has implemented a number of reforms it has still failed to address the major ethnic issues,” added Dr. Sakhong, winner of 2007 Sweden’s Martin Luther King Jr. Prize.
Obama is scheduled to arrive in former capital, Rangoon, on Monday as the first sitting US President to make a historic visit to Burma, a multi-ethnic country consisting of many ethnic groups.
During his brief visit, the 44th US President will give a speech at the convocation hall of the University of Yangon, previously known as Rangoon Arts and Sciences University.
The release of 452 prisoners on Thursday by the government of Burma ahead of a visit by President Obama has been criticized by activists as hundreds of political detainees are still behind bars.
In 2008, President George Bush met with exile-based Burma’s ethnic leaders during his trip to Thailand with Laura Bush, who visited the Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) also urges US President Barack Obama to raise constitutional and legislative reform, religious freedom and the need to end conflicts and begin a peace process with ethnic nationalities.
Formed in 2001, the Ethnic Nationalities Council is a state-based political organization committed to encouraging political dialogue between ethnic actors and all other relevant parties in efforts to bring democracy and freedom in Burma.
Van Biak Thang