Interviews


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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Thet Thet Khine is the vice president of Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs Association and managing director of Forever Gems, a gold and jewelry firm. She spoke at Burma’s first Women’s Forum in Rangoon on Friday. In an interview with The Irrawaddy Thet Thet Khine, 46, talks about her experience as a woman entrepreneur in Burma, her background and her plans to enter politics. Born in the ruby mining town of Moe Gok in Mandalay Division, she holds a medical degree from the Institute of Medicine 1 at Rangoon University and an MBA degree from Singapore’s Nanyang University. (more…)

Thai and Burmese workers at the Dawei special economic zone (SEZ) are facing unemployment as massive construction projects were this month temporarily suspended.

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The Netherlands Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liliane Ploumen made a two-day visit to Burma earlier this week. She discussed Dutch business investment with government ministers, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and civil society representatives. The minister was accompanied by a trade delegation that included representatives of Dutch companies such as East West Seed, international electronics firm Philips, consumer goods giant Unilever and global beer brewer Heineken, all of which have announced plans to open facilities in Burma.

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With the conclusion of another round of peace talks between the central government and ethnic armed groups last week, the stage is set for a meeting next month in Burma’s Karen State. Both sides have agreed to work toward a nationwide ceasefire agreement at that gathering in Pa-an, having exchanged draft proposals of such an accord in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, which hosted the latest round of talks from Nov. 4-5.
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Zaw Win Than has been with The Myanmar Times since 2006 and this year was appointed chief of staff. The weekly newspaper publishes both an English and Myanmar language edition. In October Zaw Win Than together with 10 other Myanmar journalists came to Germany to learn about changes affecting print media. Visits to several publishing houses gave them insight into various business models. (more…)

Shwe Mann was once one of Burma’s most powerful generals, ranking third in the hierarchy of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the military regime that ruled until 2011; today, he is the speaker of the Union Parliament, and a key player in the country’s ongoing political transition.
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The chairman of the Southeast Asian Press Association, Kavi Chongkittavorn, spoke to DVB’s Toe Zaw Latt about the challenges and opportunities that Burma will face as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
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Foreign and Burmese female lawmakers gathered last week in Naypyidaw to discuss the role of women in politics.
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Lower House parliamentarian Thein Nyunt has made a name for himself as one of Burma’s more outspoken lawmakers, frequently leading the charge on issues pertaining to human rights and democracy as the country has transitioned from authoritarian military rule over the last two years.
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When Burma’s former regime was crafting its education policy and determining how to mold the young minds of the nation, Than Oo was there to offer advice. A former high school principle and teachers’ training college principle, Than Oo was an adviser to the Education Ministry in 1988, the same year student-led protests swept the nation. During his career, the US university-educated scholar also served as chairman of the country’s Education Research Bureau, director-general of the Basic Education Department, and chairman of Wisdom Light, a group formed by U Thant, the late former secretary general of the United Nations. Today, as chairman of the Myanmar Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is cooperating with Burma’s quasi-civilian government to review the national education sector and identify areas for reform. In an exclusive interview with The Irrawaddy, he criticizes former dictator Ne Win’s education policies and offers thoughts on the current reform process. (more…)

This month, Burma marks 25 years since the student-led 8888 democracy uprising — named after Aug. 8, 1988 — was brutally crushed by its former ruling military junta. That this downtrodden Southeast Asian nation was allowed to mark the occasion at all is a testament to how dramatic recent reforms have been. But if those thousands of innocent lives lost are to be properly commemorated, then how popular rule was first lost though a coup in 1962 must likewise never be forgotten. This is the story acclaimed author Wendy Law-Yone weaves in her new book, Golden Parasol. (more…)

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