Myanmar envoy has personal link to religious freedom debate
Opinion | Columns | Diplomatic Circles | Diplomacy | KRISTEN SHANEPublished: Wednesday, 09/11/2013 12:00 am EDT
Religion has been a hot topic lately in
Hau Do Suan
’s homeland. He’s the new ambassador forMyanmar, the southeast Asian country also known as Burma.While his country has been lauded for its democratic reforms in the last three years, it continuesto face social unrest.Last year,
The Globe and Mail
reported that nearly 200 people were killed and about 110,000displaced during Buddhist-Muslim clashes in the country’s west. Myanmar’s population ismostly Buddhist.And despite the attempts to bring about peace, longstanding conflicts between the centralgovernment and ethnic militias in the country’s north and east have refused to die.A group from the ethnic Chin minority, which counts many Christians among them, came toOttawa earlier this year to tell parliamentarians that meaningful change isn’t being feltthroughout all of Myanmar. The Chin Human Rights Organization, a non-governmental group, recently released a reportsuggesting that government-funded schools in the country target impoverished ethnic minoritiesand force them to convert to Buddhism and assimilate.Mr. Suan is himself a member of the Chin ethnic group and a Christian Baptist. His wife,
, is also a Christian.But he sees things differently.He says he comes from one of the poorest regions in the country, Chin State. But it didn’t getthat way because of discrimination, he argued. It’s disadvantaged geographically, he said. Itsmountainous terrain makes it hard to cultivate enough food for consumption, and it also lacksnatural resources. In that kind of environment, you can’t expect equal development with otherregions, he said.He says if there were discrimination, he likely wouldn’t be where he is today.He rose up through the ranks of the foreign service over more than 25 years through postings atthe United Nations in New York, Geneva, Canberra, and Beijing. He was the consul general inKunming, China for a time. And his last posting before coming to Canada was as directorgeneral of his foreign ministry’s political department. That meant he dealt with the bilateralrelationship with all countries—a big job. In that role, he came to Canada alongside his foreignminister,
Wunna Maung Lwin
, last October.
At a critical moment
Mr. Suan is proud of his country’s accomplishments along its transition to democracy in such ashort period of time. He lists its progress on press freedom, for example, and parliamentary and judiciary reform, elections, and economic liberalization.
Myanmar envoy has personal link to religious freedom debatehttp://www.embassynews.ca/print_out_story/344491 of 29/13/2013 8:18 AM