New Ethnic Network Founded at the first Burma Ethnic Nationalities Conference in Canada

4 October 2009 : Toronto, Canada

Media Contact: Zaw Wai Kyaw (416) 358 2318 Saion Nammao (604) 598 9192

The first Burma Ethnic Nationalities Forum was successfully held on 2-3 October 2009 at York University Toronto, Canada. The conference was attended by over 100 representatives of Burma’s ethnic communities from across Canada and by special invited guests, including Canadian Members of Parliament, ethnic leaders and women activists based on the Thai-Burma border, pro-democracy activists and solidarity groups in Canada.

The conference discussed and reviewed recent political developments in Burma, as well as, the escalating violence and military offensives in ethnic areas. The conference also explored effective ethnic responses to the challenges posed by the planned 2010 elections.

The conference notes with growing concern the ever deteriorating human rights and humanitarian conditions in ethnic States and their continuing devastating impacts on the ethnic populations across the Union of Burma. The conference is also highly concerned about the increasing environmental devastation in ethnic areas as a result of development projects and unregulated and excessive resource extraction activities. We call upon the State Peace and Development Council to immediately stop their systematic human rights abuses and institutional violence against the ethnic people. We welcome the recent announcement by the United States government to directly engage Burma’s military regime diplomatically. However, we are of the view that such high level diplomatic engagement must be accompanied by sustained political and economic pressure on the regime.

The election planned for 2010 is a product of a fundamentally flawed constitution that was passed in a flawed referendum of 2008. We firmly believe that the 2010 elections will not usher in the kind of political reforms expected by the international community nor it will result in genuine national reconciliation. We call upon the international community to insist that the military regime initiate a tripartite dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition and representatives of the ethnic nationalities.

With the view of fostering closer cooperation and understanding, the conference established the Burma Ethnic Nationalities Network –Canada. BENN-Canada is a network composed of ethnic nationalities from across Canada whose purpose is to broaden Canadian debate on Burma so that the concerns and issues of ethnic nationalities are included in the larger Canadian foreign policy framework on Burma.

We are grateful for Canada’s longstanding and principled support for human rights and democratic governance in Burma. Canadian humanitarian assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons continue to save lives and empower the grass roots.

We urge the government of Canada to:_

• maintain existing political and economic pressures on Burma

• continue its humanitarian commitments and political and financial support for transition to democratic governance in Burma

• support the introduction of binding UN Security Council resolution on Burma

Burma Ethnic Nationalities Network – Canada


Salai Za Uk Ling Maw Thu Maeh

Naw Paw Wah Tha Dar Hsae

Tel: 1-647-296-8409

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