The Burmese government is planning to establish a Ministry for Youth Affairs, according to President’s Office Minister Soe Thein.
Speaking at a seminar in Rangoon on Thursday on the role of young people in Burma’s political parties, he said, “Youths have roles in various sectors of the country’s reforms – some are focused on the education sector or the health sector, as well as civil society. They also should offer a hand to work in the political arena as a step towards the country’s development.”
The seminar was attended by youth members from various political parties.
Sai Kyaw Thu Linn, a youth member of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, said that young people in Burma are more involved nowadays in political activities than they were in the past; however they don’t get much opportunity to play a role in the political system itself.
“I see that the youth of today, compared to the past, are now more keenly involved in the political world, but they still don’t get many opportunities,” said Sai Kyaw Thu Linn. “I think this is because members of the older generation lack confidence in youngsters and don’t give them the chances to prove themselves.”
Min Hein, a central youth wing member of the Democratic Party-Myanmar, said: “In my opinion, there isn’t much opportunity for young people to play a role in politics, and it may take a while, firstly because the country’s reforms are still in their infancy, and secondly because of the poor state of the education system.
“Too many restrictions are placed on students – in some schools, they are unable to form students’ unions,” he continued. “In other schools, officials just turn a blind eye, but they won’t offer any encouragement to those who are politically active.”
Yin Yin Gyi, a young member of the Democratic Party for New Society, said that politics and activism are generally stigmatised by Burmese parents who lived through decades of military rule, and this may contribute to why many of Burma’s youths lack the initiative to become involved in politics.”
Myo Zaw Linn of civil society group The Innovative, which organised the event at the Sky Star Hotel in the former capital, said the seminar was set to continue on Friday.
Burma is not the first country in the region to entertain the notion of a Ministry for Youth Affairs or some such similar department – India, Nepal and Bangladesh each have a Ministry for Youth and Sports; Sri Lanka has a Ministry for Youth Affairs and Skills Development; and Singapore has a Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.