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The Ta’ang people of northern Shan State say that they should have a state of their own in a future federal Burma.
At a seminar held in Shan State’s Kyaukme Township last week in preparation for the upcoming 21st Century Panglong Conference, Ta’ang community leaders argued that Burma’s smaller ethnic groups need states of their own if they are to have equal status in the country.
“We are a self-administrated zone in name only, but we have no real authority. As an ethnic group with a sizable population in Burma, we want self-determination and self-rule to guarantee our ethnic rights and preservation of our culture and literature,” said Dede Mokham of the Ta’ang Women’s Organisation, who acted as a spokesperson for the event.
The Ta’ang, also known as Palaung, are one of four ethnic groups in Shan State that have had their own self-administered zones since 2010 (the Wa have a self-administered district). The Naga, who have a self-administered zone in Sagaing Division, have also recently called for the creation of their own state.
According to Dede Mokham, the current situation leaves many of Burma’s 135 officially recognised “ethnic nationalities” at a disadvantage.
“Right now, we feel like we are being discriminated against. Whenever we talk about the union of Burma, the Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Chin, Mon, Burmese, Arakanese and Shan are referred to as the ethnic groups of the country, but other ethnic group are rarely mentioned,” she said.
While most ethnic minorities have long complained of the pressures of “Burmanisation” at the hands of the country’s Burman, or Bamar, majority, some groups say they are also treated like second-class citizens by other locally dominant ethnic groups.
“We are also subjected to discrimination in Shan State as a minority,” said Dede Mokham, explaining why those who took part in the gathering decided they “should call for a Ta’ang state in the future federal union of Burma.”
She added that according to an independent survey conducted by Ta’ang civil society groups in 2014, there were more than a million Ta’ang people across Burma, concentrated in Shan State and Mandalay Division.
The three-day seminar in Kyaukme, held from 4 to 6 August, brought together representatives of Ta’ang ethnic political parties, Buddhist monks, students, women activists, business people and civil society activists.