Interviews


When Myanmar, earlier known as Burma, began to emerge from military dictatorship in 2011, most Western embargoes were lifted in response to the wide-ranging political and economic reforms introduced. Over the past three years, attempts by the quasi-civilian government led by former general Thein Sein to lure foreign investment, create jobs and improve infrastructure have generated excitement over the country’s potential as Asia’s next frontier market. (more…)

In late July, the Union Parliament approved the National Education Bill and the legislation, which is still awaiting approval by the president, is meant to overhaul Burma’s derelict education system. Under previous military governments, the system suffered from neglect, underfunding and outdated teaching methods.
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The tragic story of Burma’s boatpeople is now known the world over; countless Rohingya Muslims pay brokers to transport them by boat to neighbouring countries, in a desperate attempt to escape poverty and violence. Many die on harsh seas, others fall into the hands of human traffickers. The United Nations estimates that tens of thousands of people in the region — many of them stateless Rohingya Muslims — risked their lives to flee by boat since just the start of this year.

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After fleeing their homes amid armed conflict, many displaced women in northern Burma lack opportunities to earn a living. At camps for internally displaced people (IDPs), some have been waiting for three years to go home, where they can find jobs or farm the land. To make the wait a little easier, one philanthropist is teaching them to weave and sell handicrafts at markets. Phyu Ei Thein, founder of the Sunflower Group, offers classes at IDP camps in Kachin State while also encouraging women across the country to support themselves by learning to weave at loom institutes. She spoke with The Irrawaddy about her work.
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(In Mray Bon township of Arakan, over 1000 Muslims have applied for the Burmese citizenship status. Local authorities are presently engaged with the scrutinizing process under the guidelines of 1982 Burmese Citizenship Act. People are expecting that all the applicants would be considered as Burmese Citizens. Narinjara News talked to U Maung Maung Than, director general  of Immigration Department, recently and the excerpts are here).
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The Burmese government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UWPC) and ethnic rebel groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) met to discuss the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement in Rangoon last week.
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Newly appointed Information Minister Ye Htut met for the first time on Saturday with representatives of Burma’s Interim Press Council (IPC) to discuss the regulations for the new media law.
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To mark the 26th anniversary of Burma’s democratic uprising on 8 August 1988, Min Ko Naing, head of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS), spoke with DVB’s Aye Nai about the progress made and the path towards establishing a true federalist system under civilian rule.
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Presidential spokesman Ye Htut took the reins of Burma’s Ministry of Information last week, succeeding former Information Minister Aung Kyi, who resigned from the post on July 29. Previously serving as deputy information minister in addition to his role as presidential spokesman, Ye Htut spoke to The Irrawaddy’s Htet Naing Zaw about his approach to conflicts between media and the government, his growing cabinet workload and future plans as Burma’s new information minister.
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Dr. Khin Mar Mar Kyi is an award-winning social anthropologist and documentary filmmaker specializing on Southeast Asia, Burma and gender issues. She has served as a senior advisor to the Australian government and a lecturer at Australian National University, but now works at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. She is currently visiting Burma as a member of the university’s Oxford Burma Universities’ Collaborations delegation, giving lectures at both Rangoon and Mandalay universities as part of the program.
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Many banks were affected by the 2003 financial crisis in Myanmar and among them was Yoma Bank. After its licence was returned in August 2012, the bank decided to head in a new direction. Canadian Hal Bosher, Yoma Bank’s chief executive officer, was formerly with the World Bank. Mizzima Business Weekly’s Hans Hulst spoke to Mr Bosher about the challenges facing Myanmar’s banking sector.
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The Parami Energy Group of Companies is a leading local provider of services to oil and gas companies operating in Myanmar; but, as CEO U Pyae Wa Tun (who is also known as U Ken Tun) is quick to point out, local firms account for a mere 5 percent of investment in the country’s crucial energy sector. This needs to change, he says, because it is costing the government much-needed tax revenue. As he tells The Irrawaddy’s Kyaw Hsu Mon, Myanmar needs to implement policies that will make it less dependent on foreign companies and put development of its energy sector on a more sustainable course.
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In this week’s Dateline Irrawaddy show—first aired on DVB—panelists discuss a backsliding of press freedoms in Burma, including the imprisonment of journalists for 10 years with hard labor.
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A small group of Burmese women who want to start businesses of their own is being helped by Project-W, part of a so-called start-up incubator in Rangoon. Eleven women were chosen for their business ideas, which range from starting an online shop selling longyis, to a travel agency. The women are currently involved in the six-month project, in which they are being taught business skills and market knowledge, and being advised by local mentors.
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Last week, Burma was accepted as a candidate for the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global anti-corruption scheme that requires member governments to disclose payments earned from oil, gas and mineral wealth. Burma’s EITI arrangement could also be expanded to include hydropower and forestry.
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When the Yangon Stock Exchange launches next year, five public companies will be listed. Among them is Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation Ltd (Mapco), the first public agricultural company in the country. Mapco’s managing director Ye Min Aung recently caught up with The Irrawaddy about his company’s activities and challenges ahead of the stock exchange launch.
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In this week’s Dateline Irrawaddy show—first aired on DVB on Wednesday—panelists discussed the public outcry over the high price paid by the United Nations’ Children’s Fund’s  to former member of Burma’s junta for the rental of its office in Rangoon.
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After the communal violence broke out in the Rakhine State, international aid groups and international non-governmental organisations have often been accused of discrimination in distributing aids to the ethnic Rakhine people and the Bengalis. And the INGOs have been targeted in recent violent incidents in the Rakhine State.
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British ambassador Andrew Patrick presented his credentials to the Myanmar Government in September 2013 and has since been working on supporting the reform process. There was friction in bilateral ties recently after presidential spokesman U Ye Htut accused Britain of meddling in Myanmar’s affairs. In an exclusive interview with Mizzima Business Weekly’s Hans Hulst, Mr Patrick discussed topics ranging from communal strife in Rakhine State to the census, for which Britain was one of the main sponsors.
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During this weekend’s 24th Asean Summit the hot topic was the South China Sea, where tensions have been raised in regional states’ territorial disputes with China.
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