ISSN 2330-717X

Burma: Christian MPs Back New Ethnic Affairs Ministry

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By John Zaw

Lawmakers in Myanmar’s parliament have approved a proposal by the incoming government for the formation of a new ethnic affairs ministry.

Christian MPs said the move was a step forward toward peace and national reconciliation with minority groups.

The proposal was submitted to parliament on March 17. Lawmakers debated the proposal and accepted it March 18.

The establishment of the new ministry is part of a broader civil service reform strategy to reduce bureaucracy in which the incoming government wants to cut the number of ministries from 36 to 21.

Establishing an ethnic affairs ministry will advance the cause of national reconciliation with more than 100 ethnic groups in the country, many of whom have held long-simmering conflicts with the government since Myanmar achieved independence in 1948, Christian lawmakers from minority groups said.

Shan Ray Shu Maung, a Catholic and upper house MP from the National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Kayah state, hails it as a good sign for listening to the voices of ethnic people as ethnic voices have been neglected for more than 50 years.

“An ethnic affairs ministry is much needed and must focus on regional development by working closely with ethnic people,” Catholic lawmaker, Shan Ray Shu Maung told ucanews.com March 18.

“We have high expectations this new ministry will be able to do this effectively,” said the NLD lawmaker.

Myanmar’s minority ethnic groups make up a third of the country’s 53 million people.

Many Christians live in Myanmar’s ethnic-based states of Chin, Kachin, Karen and Kayah in what is a predominately Buddhist country.

Pu Chin Sian Thang, a Baptist and lower house MP from Chin state’s Zomi Congress Party, said the new ministry shows the new civilian government’s commitment to look out for minority peoples.

“Rebellions have occurred in ethnic areas when the federal principles of equality and self-determination have been neglected so it is time to solve the root cause of the problems and bring peace to Myanmar,” Pu Chin Sian Thang said.

The incoming NLD-led government is expected to name 18 new ministers on March 21. Military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, will appoint the three remaining cabinet ministers, interior, border and defense.

Meanwhile, president-elect U Htin Kyaw will be sworn in on March 30 and take office on April 1.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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