Interviews


A dialogue involving six of Burma’s leading political players, considered by many to be crucial for Burma’s tenuous democratic transition, was held on April 10. The much-anticipated gathering yielded little in the way of political breakthroughs, however, with the parties agreeing to meet again next month.
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Aung Min, Myanmar’s minister in charge of peace talks with the country’s armed ethnic groups, says building trust among all the players involved is what ultimately led to the breakthrough provisional cease-fire agreement on March 31.
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On this week’s Dateline Irrawaddy, the panel talks about the changing nature of Burma’s Thingyan festival, including the rise of drunkenness and drug use among young revelers, and concerns over water conservation at a time of increasing shortages. (more…)

A host of Japanese companies are entering Myanmar. Japanese software developer Acroquest Technology in 2012 set up a branch in the country, which is often called Asia’s last frontier. (more…)

Natural medicines remain an important alternate remedy in Myanmar as local and foreign pharmaceutical companies look to gain a foothold in the market. A pioneer in the field of alternative medicine, Dr. Khin Maung Lwin founded Fame Pharmaceuticals in 1994. He graduated from the Institute of Medicine 2 (Yangon) in 1984, served in the Myanmar Army Medical Corps for more than five years and has also pursued post-graduate studies in the United States and the United Kingdom. Dr. Khin Maung Lwin spoke with The Irrawaddy’s Kyaw Hsu Mon about the alternative medicine market in a country better known for its counterfeit drugs.
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Over 550 enslaved fisherman have now been found on the Indonesian island of Benjina. Last month an in depth investigation carried out by the Associated Press uncovered a sinister web of human trafficking and forced labour, spanning the Southeast Asian region. Reporters traced slave-caught seafood from Bejina and its surrounding waters to Thailand and on to major US food retailers.
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On this week’s edition of Dateline Irrawaddy, Tin Maung Maung Aye discusses his efforts to educate Burma’s child laborers through his Myanmar Mobile Education Project. This is a transcript of the second part of the discussions; the first part was published last week. (more…)

Five brokerage firms in Rangoon that arranged for the Burmese seamen to work on the Dalny Vostok have had their licenses revoked for not informing the men they would be working on a fishing ship. The operator of the ship also faces action for illegally accepting the workers.

In a DVB interview – see below – one of the survivors, Htet Ko Ko, says he was not aware he would be working on a fishing boat until he was taken there by speedboat. (more…)

Burma’s political heavyweights met in Naypyidaw on Wednesday for the latest summit in a stop-start series of political reform talks. President Thein Sein, military officials, parliamentary representatives, ministers, leader of the opposition Aung San Suu Kyi and other party leaders discussed issues around the peace process, the upcoming elections and ensuring peaceful power transfer to a winning party in the election.
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The bloodless shift to democratization has been the greatest accomplishment of Myanmar’s 4-year transition from military to civilian rule, Myanmar President Thein Sein told the Mainichi Shimbun in an exclusive April 9 interview.
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Last week government and ethnic peace negotiators put pen to paper on a single draft document that could lay the foundation for an historic nationwide ceasefire. Yet fighting continues in northeastern Burma.
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Wendy Law-Yone is the daughter of Edward Law-Yone who founded The Nation, Myanmar’s influential English-language newspaper in 1948.  When Ne Win staged a coup d’état in 1962, her life was turned upside down: the newspaper was shut down a year later, her father was detained for five years and she was barred from leaving the country. She was foiled in her first attempt to sneak across the border to Thailand in 1967, which resulted in her imprisonment. Eventually she successfully fled to the United States via Bangkok in 1973, settling in Washington DC. Wendy has published four novels including “Irrawaddy Tango” and “The Golden Parasol”, whose Myanmar translation has just hit the bookstores.
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With the gradual introduction of the Asean open skies agreement, which will over time open domestic airlines to regional competition, local carriers are facing increasing competition and regulatory pressure. One temporary casualty of the rapidly evolving aviation market was the joint venture airline Air Mandalay, which suspended its chartered flight services in December last year due to unmet upgrade requirements and delays in receiving new aircraft from overseas suppliers. After reintroducing chartered flights in March, and with plans to resume scheduled flights after a nine-month hiatus at the beginning of May, Air Mandalay CEO Sai Kham Park Pha spoke with The Irrawaddy about the challenges facing the airline industry in Burma.
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As anticipation grows for Burma’s election later this year, the role of the Union Election Commission (UEC) and the constitutional foundations for the ballot are coming under increased scrutiny. Following a recent proposal to increase membership of the UEC, which currently stands at 18, DVB invited Supreme Court lawyer and member of the National League for Democracy’s committee on constitutional reform, Ko Ni, to give his take on the current state of affairs.
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On this week’s edition of Dateline Irrawaddy, Tin Maung Maung Aye discusses his efforts to educate Burma’s child laborers.
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A former second vice-chairman of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, Aung Din was incarcerated from 1989 to 1993 for participating in the pro-democracy uprising in 1988. After traveling to the United States, he worked as executive director of the US Campaign for Burma between 2003 and 2012, and was also involved with the Free Burma Coalition for two years. In this interview with Kyaw Zwa Moe, editor of The Irrawaddy’s English edition, Aung Din discusses recent reforms in the country, the evolution of the United States’ foreign policy towards Burma, and the prospects of free and fair elections in the next decade. (more…)

As the deadline for political party registration approaches ahead of the 2015 elections a new party representing five Shan ethnic populations in Sagaing Division and Kachin State has been formed.
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Just as the latest round of peace talks paused for a recess and participants emerged optimistic about reaching a long awaited nationwide ceasefire agreement, news emerged that clashes had again broken out between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the country’s far north. While many stakeholders maintain that an agreement is just around the corner, so many deadlines have come and gone that peace seems a distant mirage to many observers.
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Veteran Burma researcher Bertil Lintner was in Burma this week for an event marking the opening of a new Burma Studies Centre.

DVB spoke to Lintner about the state of democratic reform in Burma.
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In this week’s edition of Dateline Irrawaddy, Kyi Myint of the Myanmar Lawyers Network and 88 Generation leader Ko Ko Gyi join The Irrawaddy editor Aung Zaw to continue discussions on the Mar. 5 crackdown on a student protest in downtown Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership role and upcoming elections.
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