Interviews


In an interview with Nancy Shwe, director of RFA’s Myanmar Service,  Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander in Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, said former junta chief Than Shwe advises his former army colleagues on military affairs but exerts no influence on the country’s politics. He also denied that the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s armed services]  played any role in the ouster last week of  ruling party chairman Shwe Mann.
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In the second and final installment of The Irrawaddy’s interview with Professor Larry Diamond, the Stanford University democracy scholar discusses complaints about the leadership style of Aung San Suu Kyi, the rise of Ma Ba Tha and the efforts to negotiate a nationwide ceasefire agreement with Irrawaddy founding editor Aung Zaw.
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The road to Naypyidaw, often referred to as “the death highway,” has again come under scrutiny after news of recent deadly crashes on its rugged stretch of pavement. Recent rains, it seems, have made the infamous death trap even more dangerous. Last week, eight people died when a Shweli Oo passenger bus skidded off the asphalt. Dozens were injured and a much-loved aid worker was killed in another fatal pile-up as recently as Sunday. From just January to June of this year, the number of accidents between Rangoon and Nypyidaw reached 197, leaving 68 people dead.
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With some 90 political parties expected to compete in Burma’s general election on Nov. 8, The Irrawaddy is reaching out to the leadership of the major contenders to find out how they plan to contest, which issues they will emphasize and what challenges they face in this crucial election year. In this interview, The Irrawaddy speaks with Kyaw Swar Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Farmers Development Party, which says it will fight to represent a demographic that accounts for an estimated 70 percent of Burma’s population.
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Stanford University democracy scholar Larry Diamond first spoke to The Irrawaddy in July 2012, discussing the country’s tentative democratic reforms after meeting with government representatives and civil society groups. Returning to Burma this month, Professor Diamond spoke with Irrawaddy founding editor Aung Zaw about the removal of Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann from the chairmanship of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the implications for the coming general election.
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Myanmar Now launched at the beginning of August as a free bilingual news site covering life in the country, and the upcoming elections. Staffed by, among others, ex-Irrawaddy reporters it’s funded by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Chief Correspondent and former Thomson Reuters humanitarian reporter Thin Lei Win spoke to The Diplomat about the unique challenges of setting up a new news site within Myanmar.
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It was a dreary Saturday morning in July. Downtown Yangon was in the grip of its notorious monsoon season, yet in a white, spacious room on the 11th floor of a high-rise building, some three dozen young men sat huddled in groups, oblivious to the unrelenting rain and wind outside.
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Rows upon rows of plaster moulds of hands stand on shelves in a colonial villa in central Yangon, looking similar, yet all unique. They do not reproduce any person’s arm – they are taken exclusively from former political prisoners, of whom there are many in Burma, where over 5,000 people have served time in jail for political offences.
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As Upper Burma has been battered by widespread flooding in recent weeks, attention has rightly focused on the tens of thousands of lives impacted by the high waters and landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains since mid-July. But when the floodwaters recede and people return to their homes, a more enduring impact may come in the form of a major shortfall in the nation’s rice harvest. A staple crop and major Burmese export, rice paddies in much of the country’s agricultural heartland have been inundated and many plants likely will not produce this growing season.
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Khu Oo Reh is the General Secretary of the ethnic alliance the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and the Vice Chairman of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP). In this exclusive in-depth interview, Khu Oo Reh talks about the goals of the UNFC, the current state of the peace process and the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) talks, as well as the role of the international communitywho are engaging with the Burma Government and fundingthe peace process through institutions such as the Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC). The views of the UNFC and ethnic armed organisations, who remain in desperate need of support in order to realise a lasting and sustainable peaceend up too often ignored, overlooked, or misunderstood by international actors. Khu Oo Reh strongly encourages the international community to listen to all sides in order to develop an understanding of the dynamics of the problems they are funding to solve. (more…)

Ophir Energy PLC is an upstream oil and gas exploration company which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is headquartered in London, with operational offices in Australia, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Kenya. Ophir Energy was awarded the AD-03 offshore block in Myanmar’s Rakhine Basin and signed a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) with Myanmar’s Ministry of Energy in December 2014. Andrew Chapman is Ophir Energy’s senior advisor in Myanmar and he talks to Mizzima Weekly’s Jessica Mudditt about the company’s progress to date.
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Around the world, the way foreign aid works is coming under wider scrutiny. Criticisms of an increasingly privatized international aid “industry” include claims that many of its approaches are too top-down, inflexible and ineffective.
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About 20 political parties are preparing to contest in war-torn Kachin State during Burma’s upcoming general election on Nov. 8, among them the ruling party-backed Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State (UDPKS). Despite its affiliation with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)—the political reincarnation of the country’s former military regime—the UDPKS’s two Union Parliament lawmakers have been outspoken on the state’s affairs and the peace process over the last several years. Relatively small compared with other ethnic political parties, the UDPKS plans to contest about one-fourth of the Kachin State parliament’s 38 elected seats and three seats at the Union level.  (more…)

With more than 80 political parties expected to compete in a general election due in November, The Irrawaddy is reaching out to the leadership of the major parties to find out how they plan to contest, what issues they will emphasize and which direction they predict the country’s politics will take.
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Founded in 1994 by U Aung Ko Win, the Kanbawza (KBZ) Group of Companies manages a diverse set of business interests, including in mining, banking, real estate, aviation and insurance. The eldest daughter of the firm’s founder, Ma Nang Lang Kham, cut her teeth working at KBZ Bank, one of the largest private financial institutions in Myanmar, with nearly 200 branches across the country and with 113 billion kyat (US$101.9 million) in capital as of 2014. She has risen to become the chairwoman of Brighter Future Foundation, Air KBZ, KBZ Bank and Kempinski Hotel Nay Pyi Taw under the KBZ group of Companies. Ma Nang Lai Kham spoke with The Irrawaddy’s Kyaw Hsu Mon about the role of women at Kanbawza, promoting women business leaders and encouraging women’s participation in all sectors of the economy.
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After five year stint in the Rangoon Divisional Parliament, Nyo Nyo Thin, who was elected as an independent, isn’t quite satisfied. Known as something of an outspoken lawmaker who has never failed to question the divisional government on controversial issues—notably a divisive Rangoon City Expansion Plan and now-defunct developments near the Shwedagon Pagoda—she has now decided to vie for a national seat on a major party ticket.
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The world’s third largest brewery, Heineken International, recently launched a US$60 million brewing facility in Hmawbi, near Rangoon, marking the Dutch company’s comeback to the Burmese market economic sanctions forced its exit in 1996.
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The Democratic Party-Myanmar (DPM) says is looking to field some 60 candidates in the November general election. Chairman Thu Wai will run in Rangoon’s Sanchaung constituency, while party secretaries Daw Than Than Nu and Daw Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein will contest Rangoon’s Kyauktada and Pegu’s Gyobingauk townships, respectively.
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Negotiations toward reaching a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in Burma saw setbacks last month, as the nation’s ethnic negotiating bloc was reconstituted with what is viewed as a more critical constitution. The Ethnic Armed Groups Senior Delegation, which replaced the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) as a central party to the talks, has since met several times with the government to get the peace process back on track, and talks will resume in Rangoon next week.
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The first woman to be appointed as an Ambassador of Burma in five decades, Daw Yin Yin Myint represents the country in Germany, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland and Poland. The wife of the late General Aung San, Daw Khin Kyi, was her only true predecessor as a politically appointed ambassador to India in the 1960s. During a recent visit to Germany, The Irrawaddy sat down with Yin Yin Myint for to discuss Burma’ diplomatic relations with Europe and her experience as a female diplomat.
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