Interviews


Private insurance is still a nascent sector in Burma. Over the past two years, the government has begun to assess and approve insurers, but providers still struggle to establish themselves in the country’s fickle business climate. Adding to the difficulty is a widely held cultural belief that insurance brings bad luck.
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It’s been more than a decade since Zoya Phan, fleeing persecution by the Burma Army, sought and gained asylum in Britain, but the activist says her fight for human rights and democracy in the Southeast Asian nation continues from afar. The London-based campaign manager of Burma Campaign UK, Zoya Phan joined the organization after attending university in the United Kingdom. Her studies followed years as a refugee along the Thai-Burma border. (more…)

Purchasing gold has long been a way for Myanmar people to accrue secure savings, particularly in the absence of an efficient banking system. Today the gold market remains steady in a country with still-limited access to financial services. U Kyaw Win is the secretary of the Myanmar Gold Entrepreneurs Association, senior vice president of the Myanmar Gold Development Public Company and the owner of the U Htone gold shop. In this interview, he offers his assessment of the local gold market.
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Wendy Law-Yone is a Myanmar-born American writer who penned the critically acclaimed The Coffin Tree, The Road to Wanting, Irrawaddy Tango and Golden Parasol: A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma. Her works were banned in Myanmar until censorship was abolished in 2012. Wendy Law-Yone spoke to Mizzima Weekly’s Jessica Mudditt about her ambivalence towards copyright piracy and the steps she is taking to prevent it.
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Sandy Sein Thein is one member of a growing contingent of Burmese society: those among us who left Burma to work or study, but have returned to contribute their skills and vision to larger Burmese society at a time of rapid change.
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Burma’s last general election, held in 2010, was largely viewed as fraudulent, an assessment that many blamed on inaccurate and doctored voter lists. As this year’s landmark election draws near, new voter lists are beginning to take shape. The first phase of voter lists in Rangoon was rolled out in late March, when a preliminary list of all eligible voters in 10 townships were made public. Phase two, which will catalog another 14 of the city’s 45 townships, is set to be publicly displayed for two weeks starting on May 25.
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As an historic gathering of Burma’s major ethnic armed organisations entered its fourth day on Tuesday, reports emerged that the Kokang rebel Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), along with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA) were ready to renounce membership of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Bloc (NCCT), a negotiation team set up by ethnic bloc the United Nationalities Federation Council (UNFC).
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Ethnic leaders are currently meeting in Panghsang, the headquarters of the secretive United Wa State Army (UWSA), to discuss the draft text of a proposed nationwide ceasefire agreement negotiated between the government and ethnic armed groups in March.
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When I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an American city known for its universities and museums, a few months ago, I heard about a “Burma House” associated with a program for exiled writers called City of Asylum. I took a bus across one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges and walked a few blocks to a narrow, quiet street called Sampsonia Way. Chinese calligraphy in white paint adorning one house and colorful images of rice farmers, a monk and a soldier on another indicated that I had found the right location.
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Members of the National, People’s and State parliaments recently met with war refugees at Sapar Seik Village in Kyauktaw Township, Arakan State when they delivered aid to them.
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Veteran specialist of Myanmar politics Professor Robert H. Taylor has made a timely and dispassionate contribution to the discourse over race and religion stimulated by events since the change of government in 2011. In Refighting old battles, compounding misconceptions: The politics of ethnicity in Myanmar today, a monograph published last month by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, where he is an Associate Senior Fellow, Prof Taylor writes that a failure to depoliticise ethnicity and race could be “disastrous for the development of the constitutional order”. Prof Taylor, who became interested in Burma in the 1960s as an undergraduate at Ohio University, where one of his lecturers was Professor John Cady, has a PhD from Cornell University and his career has included positions at Sydney University, the School of Oriental and African Studies and as Professor of Politics at the University of London. Mizzima Weekly’s Geoffrey Goddard interviewed Prof Taylor by email. (more…)

Formed in 1988 following the nationwide pro-democracy uprising, the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) spent over two decades in political exile after being outlawed by Burma’s military regime in 1991. It was officially re-registered as a political party with the Union Election Commission in October 2014 but some leading members remain barred from contesting the 2015 elections under a constitutional clause. The party’s chair Aung Moe Zaw spoke to The Irrawaddy on his efforts to reregister the party, its activities within the last five months and his views on the current political landscape. (more…)

Burma’s largest trading partner, China, has announced that it will officially start importing Burmese rice from May in a pilot programme, which came as a result of months of negotiations between the two governments.
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DVB speaks to Sayadaw [head monk] Nanujjota-Bhivamsa, a coordinator and teacher at the international Buddhist Meditation Centre (IBMC), a Burmese vipassana centre and monastery in Nepal’s Kathmandu.
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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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