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Upper house votes against ethnic literacy proposal

File photo of Karen primary school students (PHOTO: DVB)

Burma’s upper house of parliament on Monday voted down a proposal by former house speaker Khin Aung Myint of the Union Solidarity and Development Party to adopt a special plan to eradicate illiteracy in ethnic regions, enable ethnic people to pursue higher education, and promote ethnic literature.

Education Minister Myo Thein Gyi argued successfully that peace must be implemented nationwide before changes to education development in ethnic regions are contemplated.

“With regard to education development in all regions across the country, everyone agrees and believes that the implementation of peace should be the first and foremost priority,” he told lawmakers. “Only when peace is firmly established in all regions across Burma can undertakings for education development be implemented effectively and systematically.”

Khin Aung Myint, who tabled the motion, said that despite the armed conflict in certain ethnic areas, undertakings for education development can be implemented in other areas as a mean of capacity building for ethnic populations, which will stand them in good stead for a future federal union.

“In response to the notion that illiteracy is due to a lack of peace, I would like to point out that not all ethnic regions with high illiteracy rates are lacking peace,” he said as he addressed the chamber. “This should be done ahead of time – it should not wait.”

The USDP representative’s proposal was supported by 82 MPs; but with 107 objections and seven abstentions, the motion was dropped.

The 224-member upper house, or Amyotha Hluttaw as it is known in Burmese, is dominated by the ruling National League for Democracy, which has 135 seats – just over 60 percent of the assembly. The former ruling USDP has just 11 MPs in the house, but can usually rely on support from military appointees, of whom there are 56.