The 3-day 6th Congress of Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) held on the Thai-Burmese border, 9-11 June, ended with a resolution to struggle on in cooperation with other alliances especially the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) formed in February with the aim to set up a “Federal Union Army”
The new chairman Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, a new face to many, said, “The UNFC is still in its early stages. We cannot afford to dissolve the ENC at least at this critical period.”
The review by Dr Suikhar, who was later elected as Secretary General, and adopted by the meeting credited the state-based grouping for outstanding achievements in foreign affairs, the ongoing federal and state constitution drafting process and the founding of the UNFC following its year long shuttle diplomacy.
Asked by SHAN whether some of the leaders who are concurrent members of the UNFC and ENC are “having one’s foot on two gunwales,” a Burmese expression which corresponds to “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds,” Hkun Okker, President of the PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO), associate member of UNFC, gave an emphatic No.
“We should understand that these gunwales are not of different boats but of the same boat. One rows on the left and the other rows on the right and the boat moves forward.”
Despite success in foreign campaign and lobbying activities that have helped the international community to understand the key role the non-Burman ethnic nationalities are playing, there are new challenges, added Suikha. “These days few of the foreign dignitaries are talking about 2008 constitution (which is considered undemocratic) and the 2010 elections (considered sham),” he reported. “Nowadays, even the United States have become more and more national interest centric than principle centric.”
The alliance's reputation was somewhat tainted last year by “misunderstandings” brought about by the leak of its secret message to Senator Jim Webb, who visited Burma August 2009, and its decision not to boycott the ethnic parties that were set up to contest the November elections.
The ENC was the outgrowth of the 1994 UN resolution to support a tripartite (Military, Democratic forces and Ethnic forces) dialogue, the 1997 Metharawhta seminar (later named the First Congress) that adopted a genuine federal and democratic union. It emerged as the Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee (ENSCC) in 2001 and became the ENC three years later.
Its vision is a federal democracy and not just democracy, according to Dr Khin Maung, an Arakanese representative. Its mission is to serve as the voice of the ethnic nationalities, based on the 4 values: unity in diversity, internal self determination (meaning non-secession), equality and democracy. Its priorities are said to be to promote intra-inter ethnic understanding, capacity building for the ethnic peoples and to seek a peaceful solution for Burma’s problems.