A law drafted by Burma’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement to address the needs of the country’s 1.3 million disabled people will favor military veterans over the civilian population, according to the Myanmar Physically Handicapped Association (MPHA).
“It’s unacceptable that the current draft law gives priority to providing jobs to military men. All of us should be treated equally,” said Myat Oo, the chairman of the MPHA, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
“We’re not asking for more rights than ordinary people. We just wants equal rights based on the Constitution,” said Myat Oo, who served on an advisory board for writing the new law.
There are 18 organizations for the disabled in Burma. In recent months, many of them have sent letters to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement urging it to change provisions in the draft law that favor disabled military men.
“Our organization sent the ministry a letter telling them that we oppose favoring military men, but they have not responded to us yet,” said Aye Ko Ko, the general secretary of the MPHA.
The new law, which will be Burma’s first-ever attempt to legally enshrine the rights of the disabled, has been in the works since May 2011. It remains unclear when it will be submitted to Parliament.
Despite their criticism of the law in its present form, advocates for the rights of the disabled say they hope to see new legislation passed as soon as possible.
“I have been dreaming about this kind of law my whole life. Too many of us have been forced to struggle on our own for too long,” said Myat Oo.
However, the advocacy groups say they have been disappointed by the ministry’s response to many of their proposals.
“Our proposals were very reasonable, such as a suggestion that people in wheelchairs should not be charged extra for taking up more space on trains, but they rejected it,” said Myat Oo.
The MPHA has about 4,000 members and 18 branch offices in Burma. On Sept. 30, it hosted a meeting in Rangoon for disabled people in Burma to share their experiences. The meeting was organized by the Shwe Min Thar Foundation and the John P. Hussman Foundation.