Interviews


Three ethnic armed groups—the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army, Arakan Army and Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—currently involved in active conflict with the Burma Army in northern Shan State issued a statement on Thursday announcing their readiness to join the Union Peace Conference, scheduled to begin on August 31 in Naypyidaw.

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UK-based author Joe Studwell made a list of recommended reads by Bill Gates with his influential book “How Asia Works,” an analysis of success and failure in Asian economies.

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It’s complicated: In an interview with The Irrawaddy, longtime Burma expert Bertil Lintner assesses the many interests at play during State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to China on Wednesday.

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A new sense of pragmatism on all sides bodes well for the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi—Burma’s state counselor and foreign affairs minister—to China later this week, says Bangkok-based expert on Asean affairs Kavi Chongkittavorn, in an interview with The Irrawaddy’s founding editor Aung Zaw.

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A longtime backer of Burma’s pro-democracy movement, Norway has been a high-profile donor to development and peacebuilding programs inside Burma since the launch of political and economic reforms in 2011.

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As Burma once again experiences serious flooding, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has invited civil society organizations (CSOs) to join the ministry’s relief and rescue efforts. The ministry is set to meet CSOs in Mandalay on August 6 and has invited organizations from Kachin, Chin and Shan states, as well as Sagaing, Magwe and Mandalay divisions. Floods have affected more than 50,000 people so far, most of them in Arakan State and Mandalay and Magwe divisions. Win Myat Aye, minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, spoke to The Irrawaddy’s Htet Naing Zaw about his ministry’s plans to address the rising water levels.

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Economist Sean Turnell has been a researcher of Burma’s economy for over twenty years. He has been an advisor on Burma to the US State Department, to USAID and to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. he is also an informal advisor to the Burma’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government. He spoke to DVB about Burma’s economic policy released last week.

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Khun Maung Thaung is the Chairman of Ethnic Affairs and Internal Peace Committee of the Lower House and vice-president of the Pa-O National Organisation (PNO).

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Aung Htoo is a human rights lawyer who has worked for many years on ideas and challenges concerning federalism in Burma, and on the creation of a draft federal constitution. He founded the Legal Aid Network in 2012, which established the Federal Law Academy in Mai Ja Yang in Kachin State in 2014, to provide legal and constitutional education to ethnic youth.

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Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong is the vice president of the Chin National Front, a rebel group from western Myanmar that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) with the government in September 2015, together with seven other ethnic armed groups.

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European Union Ambassador Roland Kobia is upbeat about prospects of stepped up engagement between the EU and Myanmar following the new Myanmar government coming to power.

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As a former legal advisor to the now ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), lawyer Ko Ni has played a prominent role in helping to shape legislation to address a variety of issues. In 2013, he proposed a new law to deal with the growing problem of religious discrimination and hate speech, but it went nowhere under the government of former President Thein Sein. Now, with the NLD in power, he believes that there is a real possibility that a new law could be adopted before the end of the year. He recently spoke to DVB about his thoughts on the prospects for a law that could help to stem the tide of hate crimes in Burma.

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Aye Aye Mu, 46, is an ethnic Chin and a lower house lawmaker for the National League for Democracy (NLD) who represents Kale Township, in western Burma’s Sagaing Division.

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With the easing of economic sanctions in 2012, the World Bank returned to Myanmar in a big way, committing some US$1.5 billion to the country during 2013-2015. Besides funding development projects, the bank has also been playing a key role as an adviser to both the former and current governments on economic reform.

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Myanmar’s peace process has made some steps forward since reforms began under the U Thein Sein government in 2011. In October 2015, eight ethnic armed groups signed a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government, despite some of the largest groups in the country – including the Kachin Independence Army and the United Wa State Army – refusing to join the agreement.

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Saw Alex Htoo is the deputy director of Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN). He grew up along the Salween River in Karen State. He talks to DVB about the current threats the people and wildlife are facing with new hydropower projects proposed in the area.

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Chris Lewa, the founder and director of the Arakan Project, was in Geneva this week to as Burma’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) came under review for the first time since 2008. DVB spoke with her on Wednesday to learn more about the review, and about her work with the Arakan Project, which focuses on improving the human rights situation of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living mainly in Arakan State.

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The Tagaung Institute of Political Studies was established in 2014 by nine former activists, including founding members of the Yangon School of Political Science. The institute closely monitors the Myanmar Armed Forces, and has released several papers about the Tatmadaw and the National Defence and Security Council, which is responsible for security and defence affairs in Myanmar.

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As the chief-of-staff of a breakaway faction of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), one of the signatories to last year’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), Gen Saw Kyaw Thet says that he is open to the new National League for Democracy government’s efforts to engage non-ceasefire groups in peace talks. Meanwhile, the group — which calls itself the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, reviving the name of the armed group that became a Border Guard Force (BGF) in 2010 — continues to clash with the Burmese armed forces and the BGF. In this interview, Saw Kyaw Thet speaks to DVB about the group’s stand on the prospects for peace with the government.

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In 2015, Burma’s former quasi-civilian government announced that the country had received more than 4 million visitors; however, industry observer Sabei Aung, chairwoman of Nature Dream Travel and Tours, criticized the statistics as misleading. The Irrawaddy spoke with Sabei Aung about her take on the current state of the travel industry.

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