Civil Society Plans ‘Regional People’s Forum’ in Every State, Division

By Yen Saning 17 June 2014

RANGOON — Civil society groups are planning to hold a Regional People’s Forum in each state and division in Burma in the coming years, a civil society representative said, adding that the first such forum will be held in Mon State later this month.

Kyaw Lin Oo, coordinator of the Myanmar People Forum Working Group, said local civil society members can hold discussions and jointly formulate recommendations for their state at the forums, which they can then present to state authorities and lawmakers.

“We aim to hold people’s forums to help state governments and the public have a better cooperation, work towards regional development and peace, and to share ideas and give advice to each other,” he said, adding that a regional forum would be organized every two months.

“We chose to hold the first forum in Mon State because the transportation infrastructure there is good,” Kyaw Lin Oo said, adding that the next two forums will be held in Karen and Karenni states.

The Mon People’s Forum will be held from June 24-27 in Moulmein and include 12 workshops. Some 100 participants representing local communities and civil society groups of all ethnic groups in the state have been invited to attend, while local political parties and armed groups can join as observers.

He said the discussions were likely to focus on the public opinion in Mon State about the national political dialogue that is to follow a nationwide ceasefire agreement. Such a dialogue would need to resolve issues such as political autonomy and control over natural resources in ethnic minority areas.

In recent months, the Burmese government has held several rounds of talks with an alliance of the major ethnic armed groups, but no nationwide ceasefire accord has been reached yet.

Other points of discussions at the forum will be the future repatriation of Karen and Mon refugees living in camps on the Thai-Burma border, while the role of the media, civil society and political parties during Burma’s current democratic transition will also be discussed.

“Feedback from the discussions will be presented to the state government and parliament at the final day of the forum,” Kyaw Lin Oo said. “We want to be like a bridge between the Mon State government, the state parliament and locals and civil society organizations in Mon State.”

“Local civil society organizations in Mon state will be monitoring whether the state government has implemented their suggestions,” he added.