Interviews


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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This year, Burma’s government is chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) for the first time, having previously been ruled out of the position because of the country’s military regime. As chair it will have to address 21st-century Asia’s most complicated and potentially destabilizing issue: the dispute between China and its Asean neighbors, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, about overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.
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Yangon is a city abuzz with economic activity, as the world rediscovers one of the region’s most promising frontier markets after decades of isolation. With this, however, comes a growing housing crisis, as the city seeks to accommodate its rapidly expanding labor force.
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Well-known Burmese blogger and activist Nay Phone Latt launched the Panzagar (flower speech) campaign last week, which aims to oppose hate speech, a practice of attacking a person or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
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The KNU Central Executive Committee member discusses the Tatmadaw, a federal army and the hope of finally achieving peace for his people.
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Burma’s President Thein Sein in 2011 suspended the Myitsone hydropower dam in northern Kachin State amid widespread opposition to the project among Burmese people concerned its social and environmental impacts. The project, which would send most its power to China, remains highly controversial, but Chinese investors want it to resume as soon as possible.
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Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, spoke to Thomson Reuters Foundation about ceasefire prospects in the north and other human rights concerns, in addition to calling for an independent investigation into the alleged January massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
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Burma’s first Consumer Protection Association was founded only two years ago to root out unhealthy foods and medicines in the local market. The Rangoon-based volunteer group, whose members include doctors, traditional practitioners, chemists and authors, has claimed over the past year that certain imported fish sauces, instant coffee mixes and cooking oils contain harmful substances. CPA founder Ba Oak Khine, who is writing a book about traditional herbal medicines, recently explained some of the challenges in getting the group off the ground, including opposition from the Ministry of Health. (more…)

DVB speaks to Union Election Commission spokesperson Thaung Hlaing about electoral procedures, by-elections, and representation of ethnic minorities in the Commission.
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This week top officials of the Burma government met with lawmakers, foreign diplomats, and representatives from civil society groups, UN agencies and other development partners in Naypyidaw to discuss ways of accelerating international development assistance into the country. Among those at the Myanmar Development Cooperation Forum was Gavin McGillivray, head of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) Office in Burma. The DFID, a government department that provides international aid for more than 25 countries, contributed about US$100 million in assistance to Burma in the 2013-14 fiscal year. On the sidelines of the forum, McGillivray explained how those funds are used and what projects are in store for the future, while also sharing more details about a training course held earlier this month for members of Burma’s military.
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The Karen National Union (KNU) signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in January 2012. Since then, there have been disagreements within the KNU leadership over the ceasefire and the peace process. Some leaders, described as “pragmatists,” want to move quickly forward with the peace process, while others want to exercise caution.
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