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Ethnic Kayan demand representation

A young woman of the Kayan Tharyar group. (PHOTO: DVB/Melanie Keyte).

Several ethnic groups or sub-groups in Kayah State are not being fairly represented, even in their own region, according to the Kayan National Unity Committee.

“Four of the main Kayan sub-groups – the Ka Khaung, Ka Ngan, Lahta and Gedot – have agreed that they want to be officially listed under the name, Kayan, by the government,” said Khun Shamu Ayelar, the chair of the Committee.

The four are among seven recognised ethnic sub-groups of the Kayan, who are indigenous to Kayah State [formerly known as Karenni] and Shan State in eastern Burma.

According to the Constitution, only groups with a population of more than 60,000 in any region or state will be represented with an Ethnic Affairs Minister. The four Kayan groups are among several peoples in the country who do not make up the numbers to warrant automatic representation as per the 2008 Constitution. However, they count well over 60,000 when united, and therefore become eligible.

“Because of the current law, Kayah State does not even have a Kayan Ethnic Affairs Minister,” said Khun Thomas, the joint secretary of Kayan New Generation Youth, “But Shan State does.”

The total ethnic Kayan population is approximately 300,000, spread mostly across Shan and Kayah states, but with pockets in Kayin (formerly Karen) State and Naypyidaw.