An historic conference of the Chin people earlier this month brought together more than 500 delegates for the second such gathering of its kind in 65 years.
22 Nov How Myanmar could be
In Yangon two weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of how Myanmar could be. In the garden of a restaurant that was once the office of Burma’s independence leader, General Aung San, 150 people gathered for dinner. They came from a wide range of backgrounds, representing different religions, ethnicities, political parties and civil society organisations. They came to hear a message about religious and ethnic diversity, harmony and peace-building.
I am a Shan woman from Myanmar who has been working for human rights and democracy in my homeland for decades. I had the opportunity this year to spend time at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington as a visiting fellow, researching the role of women in Myanmar’s democratic transition. During my time in Washington, I remained in touch with my colleagues in Myanmar and areas along the border to keep track of the changes that were taking place. But instead of hearing excitement in their voices about democratic openings, I heard growing fear.
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, the minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, had a twinge of conscience when he said that the UN Secretary-General's “Group of Friends on Burma” – as he had called the September 26 gathering in New York in a press release the following day – was "to be fair" actually called the "Group of Friends on Myanmar". Some might feel that misnaming the group of countries supporting Ban Ki-moon on Myanmar was just a tad unfortunate, but Mr. Swire assured the House "we still call it Burma". Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who had been in the country with House Speaker John Bercow only two months previously, dared to tell the House that the country was now "Myanmar, as we were told we should now consider calling it".