State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and youths held a peace talk at Mawlamyine University in Mon State, discussing the role of youths in the peace making process, development, education, menace of drugs, socio economy of local people.
At the peace talk, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said all ethnic nationals representing Mon State were here. She said in Mawlamyine, there were Kayin, Mon and PaO ethnic nationals. “When I entered the compound of this university, I noticed that there were more females than males among the students. We will discuss about this issue,” she said.
In talking about peace, the State Counsellor stressed the importance of development for a country to have peace and stability, explaining two parts in security, physical and mental security.
“Physical security is not ceasefire only. Development is required. When there is development, there wouldn’t be worries about livelihood and survival. Security also depends much on education. It depends on stability. Men need to participate more in education sector,” said the State Counsellor.
She also discussed the ratio between male and female teaching staff, saying that 97 per cent are female and only 3 per cent are male. “I don’t know how it is in Mawlamyine University. In Yangon University roughly 60 per cent is female and 40 per cent is male. Numbers of male attending university is declining while female attendance is increasing. Females are also ahead of males in passing percentage too.”
She stressed the need to review at the earliest on why that is happening. This is happening in other countries as well. Females are becoming better in teaching. Percentage of males completing school is gradually declining. Percentage of females attending university is increasing. But interestingly, males attending post graduate courses are increasing. This is not only in our country but in other countries as well.
We need to think of how equality in education can be achieved for females and males from the start. We will have to find way to keep the males happy in the school compound and make them want to have an education. If males don’t have jobs, don’t want to get an education, and waste their time in teashops, it will affect our social stability. From there, it will affect the long term peace and stability of our country, said the State Counsellor.
Price stability of rubber, improving transportation, creating job, effective actions against drug
In his discussion, Ko Kyaw Zin Oo, third year math major student, said there is no one in the country that does not want peace. During the time of our forefathers, Mon State was not peaceful and due to this there were difficulties in the economy, education and transport. Now there is peace. But if there is peace only in military side and no peace in economics, education and job opportunities, our country, the states, townships and rural area will not have peace. Because of this, many in Mon State went abroad to seek out a living. They took along their children as they can’t afford to educate them here due to their personal financial situation. On the other hand, lack of job opportunity is making even graduates to go oversea and work.
Transportation is not good for villages in lower part of Mon State. Electricity is lacking and in some villages electricity is provided by the private sector but is very expensive.
Drugs are being used by both the elders and youth. Drug usage is affecting the stability in villages and wards.
He discussed on price stability of rubber (the primary product of the state), improving transportation, creating job opportunities, effective actions against drugs and fulfilling health requirements.
Peace and public health
Ma San Thiri, a nurse then discussed on peace and public health. According to her parents and grandparents, the state was not at peace and the people lived in fear all the time while being vigilant about possible dangers. Health personnel could not provide health education and services as there was no peace. As the public could not get the services and treatment of doctors and experts in hospitals and clinics, they have to make do with whatever sub-standard treatment they have resulting in unnecessary losses in life and health. As there was no peace, expecting mothers could not get the babies delivered properly with doctors and nurses in hospitals and clinics, many uses the services of untrained midwifes resulting in the death of both the mother and child. These are the bad outcomes of not having peace.
At our time now, we have peace. Compared with the past when there was no peace, there has been development in economy, social, transport, education, health and many others. As there is peace, health personnel are conducting more health education and health care services. Peace plays an important role in health sector. As there is development, people are relying more on hospitals and clinics. She hoped that the government provides sufficient staff in the hospitals and clinics.
She said there are many who want to become nurse in her village but the entry requirement to become a nurse for a student who passes matriculation examination is high. Many never had the chance to become a nurse. She hope the entry requirement could be reduced so that more can become nurses.
Victims of conflict or not having peace
Khun Htoo Aung of Capacity Development Myanmar, an NGO, said there are two to three ethnic armed organisations in PaO region. When they came to a village, there accommodation and food had to be taken care of by the village. When they leave, villagers had to carry their things. This is what he’d been experiencing since he was young. His region never tasted the flavor of peace.
As there was no peace, education and healthcare was not good. When he was young school education up to fourth standard was available. For higher standards, he needed to travel about 10 miles through areas where there is no or bad transportation.
Thanks to the head monk in a monastery, he graduated last year. There were over 80 youngsters like him from conflict areas in the monastery in Mawlamyine. With the support of Su Foundation, he started working in Capacity Development Myanmar (CDM) regional development works. He was able to do this because Mon State is at peace he discussed.
Youth participation in peace
Mi Zin Win Mon, youth affairs committee member, Nyein Foundation discussed on public participation in peace and said a certain numbers of youths are participating in peace process.
She wanted youth to participate in important sectors. Only when youths understand the reason of not having peace can their participation be true and accurate. She thinks that youth need to study and know the historical truth. Only when the historical truth is well understood can they know why there is no peace. With this understanding, she believed that mutual understanding and good relation can be established in youth more quickly.
Participation of local ethnic nationals in peace
In his discussion on the participation of local ethnic nationals in peace, Saw Kyaw Moe in the restaurant business said the current effort toward peace is to establishing a union based on democracy and federal system. He thinks the aim is to have a union where democracy is alive and well, where there is politics, economy and social equality and self-determination.
Thaton Township is one of the ten Townships in Mon State where Kayin ethnic nationals are the majority and they lived in area of conflicts. But there aren’t any of them participating in the present peace process. Nor there were anyone who understands about it. This is the main obstacle toward achieving long term peace. We are entering the third year of ceasefire. Once they get the taste of peace and see it as a huge attraction, they will become more involved in it.
Peace and regional status
Mi Yin Nun Swam, second year law student, discussed about peace and regional status. She spoke about rubber that is the main product of the region. She believed that foreign investment in rubber would greatly benefit the state as well as create income for the country.
As language barrier is an obstacle in education sector, she wanted the government to establish more schools that teaches in mother tongue for ethnic Mon children.
Peace and democracy
In his discussion on peace and democracy, Ko Tun Tun Lin, a teacher from a private school said establishing peace is the basic requirement for democracy. Without peace, there wouldn’t be rule of law. Without rule of law, there wouldn’t be democracy. Rule of law is the most important pillar for democracy. Democracy is important to establish peace and without a firm democracy in place, ethnic nationals would have difficulty in accepting peace.
Participation of the public in peace
Mi Ngwe Lay, Mon Cetana Development Foundation and clothing shop discussed about public participation in peace. She urges the maintaining of symbols and emblems that the ethnic nationals consider as important. Women have a strong will to participate deeply in the peace process and if a place for women to participate in the process is created, a sustainable peace will be achieved.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi replies to questions
The State Counsellor replied that if everyone wishes for peace than we have to figure out why there are so many conflicts around the world. She said we must develop our capabilities to achieve our dreams and ambitions via peaceful means, and it is part of the government’s job to support the people in this endeavour. She said that a country’s citizens are its most crucial component and no matter how capable the government can be nothing can be accomplished without the cooperation of the citizens.
Vocational training is valuable
The State Counsellor said Myanmar’s vocational education sector needs more development since it guarantees a job and income upon completion. A person with no income may upset the peace and stability of their community which is why creating jobs is a top priority.
She said that she is not looking down on higher education but wishes for everyone to understand that vocational training is as valuable as a college or university degree. Some of the most developed countries in the world such as Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany have progressive vocational education systems that are on par with university education, and the Myanmar government is working towards a similar goal, said the State Counsellor.
Reviving the rubber sector
The State Counsellor said that the rubber sector in Mon State is in decline partly because the local rubber quality is not up to international standards, and local businesses currently do not have the technology or skills to produce high-end products. She said it is the government’s responsibility to provide the necessary support and training to produce high-end products as well as to create a market for them. She said the government is doing its best to provide electricity to the area and that drug abuse is a huge danger throughout the country.
Healthcare and personal hygiene
The State Counsellor said that if the public had more health education then less people would need to go to hospitals. She said this also applies to raising awareness and discipline concerning traffic safety, such as wearing seatbelts and motorbike helmets, which would effectively reduce traffic accidents. Similarly, better personal hygiene and overall cleanliness of the environment will reduce diseases and sickness. The State Counsellor also said that litterers have no respect for their community and the nation’s integrity and something as small as littering can go a long way in influencing a person’s manners and accountability.
More youth involvement in peace process
The State Counsellor said she wishes for the youth to be more knowledgeable and up-to-date with the peace process. She said only if the youth understand the reason for conflicts can they be involved with the peace process in a positive and beneficial way. She urged the young generation to study about the country’s history and causes for conflicts saying that understanding histroy can speed up building trust and friendship among youths of ethnic races. The State Counsellor said there are plans to hold peace talks in all 330 townships across the country by collaborating with the respective state and region government and NRPC officials.
The importance of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement
National Development relies on the contents of the NCA to be in harmony with the laws, rules, and policies of the nation. She said the efforts of the government in constructing roads and supplying electricity is only possible because the peace process is going well.
She said local residents need only to take care of their region’s development but the government needs to work in the national context. She said that the entire country is in need of roads and electric supply thus the government has to equally distribute its resources and focus on each state and region fairly.
The State Counsellor said dialogue between both sides is important to better offer assistance and work together towards peace and development while steering clear of illegal activities.
Continued fighting will lead to more DPs
Regarding the businesses offered by organizations when peace prevails in regions, the State Counsellor said that if there is no peace in the land then there will continue to be displaced people fleeing from armed conflicts. It is important to remove the underlying causes for conflicts and fighting.
Preserving our priceless culture
The State Counsellor said that the government can only aid preserving the culture to a certain extent. Loving and respecting one’s culture is the only way to keep it alive and preserve it for future generations. She said that successful people bring respect and confidence to their culture which helps to preserve it.
Amending the 2008 Constitution
The State Counsellor said the National League for Democracy – (NLD) has made it part of their policy to fix parts of the 2008 Constitution since the 2012 by-elections. She said general discussions and plans had been drawn up during the 2014 Hluttaw to work towards this goal within the legal framework and through unbiased dialogue. Democracy does not happen overnight and it takes time to strengthen the democratic foundation as well.
In a democracy, everyone values their own rights as much as another person’s while adopting an attitude of responsibility amidst different opinions. She said that discussing each other’s differences is not just limited to democracy but should be incorporated in everyday life.
Understanding different culture and norms
Concerning Mon etiquette, the State Counsellor said that personally she feels out of place addressing an elderly lady without the honorific Daw. Hence, if we take the name Mi Ngwe Lay for example, someone versed in Mon etiquette would address her as simply Mi Ngwe Lay while others would address her as Daw Mi Ngwe Lay or Ma Mi Ngwe Lay. She explained that this is not intended to attack Mon etiquette or culture but is how people from other culture view the situation and it is important for different culture to be understanding of each other’s differences.
The State Counsellor said women should be fully involved in the peace process as well and it is globally recognized that the first casualty of war strikes women and children.
Next, the State Counsellor replied to three questions asked to her online.
Union Minister Dr. Myint Htwe
The Union Minister for Health and Sports said that the request for a Ks37 million CT scanner from Mawlamyine in Mon State has been approved. He urged the listeners to adhere to traffic safety and wear helmets so as to avoid head injuries.
Present at the peace talk were union ministers, state chief minister state ministers, state Hluttaw speaker, peace commission chairman, MPs from the Pyithu Hluttaw, Amyotha Hluttaw and Mon State Hluttaw, ethnic representatives, peace organizations, political parties, local residents and humanitarian organizations.
Public peace talks began in 2017 and so far have taken place twice at the International Convention Centre-II in Nay Pyi Taw, and once in Panglong in Shan State, Wundwin Township in Mandalay Region, Loikaw City in Kayah State, and Myaungmya Township in Ayeyawady Region.