Interviews


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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The Arakan Army (AA) was formed in 2009 in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) stronghold of Laiza, on Myanmar’s northern border with China, where the Arakan ethnic rebels received training and arms.

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In Myanmar, thousands of families earn a living farming the crop that feeds the heroin habit of the world’s drug users. But not all of the country’s opium is smuggled abroad.

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Nai Thet Lwin, 75, is Myanmar’s new minister for ethnic affairs. He heads a ministry recently created by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to take in hand the local insurgencies that have bedeviled the country since independence from Britain in early 1948.

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Pe Myint, 67, Myanmar’s new minister of information, hails from Rakhine state in the northwest of the country. A doctor by training, he has written 50 books of fiction and non-fiction about the country, and translated the works of others from English — none of which got him into trouble with the authorities. He received journalism training from the Bangkok-based Indochina Media Memorial Foundation in the 1990s, and was appointed to his challenging new position by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s effective prime minister. On April 1, she instructed all her ministers to prepare 100-day plans. None has yet begun to be implemented, and exact synchronization looks unlikely. An important part of Minister Pe Myint’s brief is introducing the citizens of Myanmar to some unfamiliar concepts, including freedom of speech and information, and responsive government. The minister recently talked exclusively to the Nikkei Asian Review.

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Dominik Stillhart is director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross, based in Geneva. During a weeklong visit to Myanmar that began on May 19, he visited sites in Kachin and northern Shan states where the ICRC is providing assistance to internally displaced people and also met Ministry of Home Affairs officials in Nay Pyi Taw. He spoke to Frontier at the ICRC’s Yangon office.

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U Kyaw Hla Aung, a renowned Rohingya leader, worked for decades as a clerk at Rakhine State Court, later becoming a lawyer. In the 1980s, he was debarred and imprisoned due to the military governments’ repressive policies towards the Muslim minority. He has now been jailed four times as a political prisoner; including two stints following the 2012 inter-communal violence.

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Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s State Counsellor and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), has pledged to hold a national conference later this year that would follow in the footsteps of the historic Panglong conference attended by her father General Aung San and representatives of Burma’s ethnic groups.

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In an exclusive interview, Ambassador of France Mr Olivier Richard sat down with Mizzima Editor-in-Chief Soe Myint to discuss his country’s relationship with Myanmar and his hope for expanding business, trade and cultural ties.

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Veteran actor and scriptwriter Aye Kyu Lay is vice-president of the Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation, a non-profit organisation that supports Burma’s film industry. In this interview with DVB, he discusses piracy, censorship, the decline of cinemas, and other issues affecting an industry that is just beginning to come to terms with Burma’s greater openness in the wake of recent reforms.

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Daw Yin Myo Suu was born and raised in Nyaung Shwe, on the edge of Inle Lake. She is managing director of Inle Princess Resort and founder of the Inthar Heritage House, both of which promote the customs and traditions of the Inthar people, who live on and around the lake. She spoke to Frontier about her approach to business and what can be done to help save one of the country’s most iconic natural sites.

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