Dr Lian Hmung Sakhong(Photo:ENC)
King laureate calls for "state building" in Burma
16 January 2007 S.H.A.N
Speaking in Stockholm's parliament building and later at the church of
Salemkyrkan where he was accepting the Martin Luther King Prize yesterday,
Burma's opposition Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) General Secretary Dr Lian
Hmung Sakhong called for "state-building" in lieu of "nation-building" that has
been pursued by the country's military regime since 1962.
He said in a country like Burma peopled by multi-nationalities, the notion of
nation-building in which the concept of 'nation' is blended with "one ethnicity,
one language and one religion," the only choice for minority groups is between
assimilation and resistance.
He recounted how in 1961 the parliamentary government of U Nu had promulgated
Buddhism as the state religion of Burma, how Gen Ne Win, who overthrew him, had
declared Myanmar-sa (Burmese) as the only official language and the
current military regime's changing of the country's name from Burma to Myanmar.
"In short, the successive governments have been practicing cultural genocide, if
not ethnic cleansing, for the past fifty years," he said.
Lian, as he is known by his friends, called for worthier solutions to deal with
the current crisis in Burma:
- State building instead of nation-building ("the state knows only citizens
no matter what nationality each individual belongs to, no matter what kind of
religious belief he or she worships, no matter what kind of language he or she
- "unity in diversity" instead of "national integration"
- "decentralization" instead of "centralization"
- "rights of self determination" instead of the current unitary arrangement
- "tripartite dialogue" as called for by the UN since 1994 instead of
violent confrontation still opted for by the military government
Dr Lian Hmung Sakhon wears several hats as he himself acknowledges. He is
general secretary and leading member in the following organizations:
- Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC)
- United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD)
- Chin National League for Democracy (CNLD)
- Chin National Council (CNC)
- Federal Constitution Drafting and Coordinating Committee (FCDCC)
- National Reconciliation Program (NRP)
The award was set up by Swedish peace groups in 2003 in honor of Dr Martin
Luther King Jr. (1929-68), American cleric and civil rights leader, who won the
1964 Nobel Peace Prize.