'We’ve Reached a Tipping Point in Burma'
covering burma and southeast asia
Thursday, December 09, 2021
Interview

INTERVIEW

'We’ve Reached a Tipping Point in Burma'


By THE IRRAWADDY Monday, November 21, 2011


COMMENTS (33)
RECOMMEND (527)
FACEBOOK
TWITTER
PLUSONE
 
MORE
E-MAIL
PRINT
(Page 2 of 5)

But at the same time it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the extent of the country’s challenges. And it’s not just the legacy of war and poverty and oppression. In key areas we lack the institutions we need to move ahead. The judicial and banking systems are both key for future progress, but these systems will require enormous amounts of work before they are able to function properly. Or take education. Fifty years ago the Revolutionary Council government began to destroy what had been a first-rate system of higher education. We’re still living with the consequences and any improvement will take many years if not decades. And as in much of the rest of the region, corruption has reached levels that will be extremely difficult to reverse.

Q: During your travels to China to do research for your book, you were able to see for yourself how much that country has transformed itself economically. China's continuing rise is also having a major impact on other developing countries. What do you think about China's growing influence in Burma's economy? Do you think that Burma is in danger of becoming completely dominated by China's economic might?

A: For any poor country, being next to the fastest growing economy in the world should be a huge advantage. Chinese trade and investment can be a major asset to Burma in the future. But it’s a relationship that needs to be very carefully managed. There is an urgent need to make sure that China’s growing economic presence in Burma is something that will create jobs for ordinary people and help develop the economy in a proper way, not something that will simply fuel corruption, displace local communities or destroy the environment. But this is easier said than done. Developing the state institutions we need to do this will take a very long time. I suppose it’s possible that Burma could become completely dominated by China’s economic might, but I don’t think it’s likely; nationalism in Burma has long been very strong and if there is to be an end to Western sanctions in the near future, I think we’ll see a more balanced relationship with China. My fear is actually the opposite: that a very negative view of China has crept up over the past many years, and there could well be a backlash, and that would be a tragedy for both countries.

Q: Some analysts have suggested that the Burmese government's recent moves toward reform are aimed at improving relations with the West as a means of counterbalancing China's influence. Do you think there is a danger that, far from benefiting from its key strategic position in the region, Burma could become a battleground for the competing interests of China, India and the West, as well as other regional players such as Thailand and Japan?

A: There’s good competition and there’s bad competition. If Burma is seen as increasingly important, because of its natural wealth or geographic position, and this leads to healthy competition from the West, China, India and elsewhere for access to Burma, then that’s good, as long as new business and other ties are well managed. A good government could make sure that the country gets the best possible deal. But of course it would not be good if Burma actually became a “battleground” in a literal way, or if a corrupt government was unable or unwilling to manage growing international business interests in a way that benefited the majority of people. In general, though, I think moving away from over-reliance on any one country is extremely important.

Q: You have actively argued against Western economic sanctions imposed on Burma. Do you think that Burma's rulers would have made any concessions if they hadn't been under pressure from the West? Couldn't last year's election and President Thein Sein's meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this year, for example, be attributed largely to a desire to end the sanctions?

A: No, not at all. Nothing the old junta did over the past twenty years suggests that a desire to end sanctions was high on their agenda. We have to be mindful of what the sanctions actually are. They include, for example, restrictions on the international financial institutions providing technical assistance and the effective ban on the UNDP having a normal development program in the country. Even now, it’s not entirely clear that these things would be welcome. I think the old junta always wanted to normalize relations with the West and wanted a relaxation of sanctions as a sign of better relations, but I don’t think they actually wanted many of the things that would come with an end to sanctions, such as more development aid or an increased international presence.



« previous  1  |  2  |  3 | 4 | 5  next page »

COMMENTS (33)
 
Please read our policy before you post comments. Click here
Name:
E-mail:   (Your e-mail will not be published.)
Comment:
You have characters left.
Word Verification: captcha Type the characters you see in the picture.
 

Moe Aung Wrote:
29/11/2011
Okkar,

Good try. It's not Than Shwe & Co, it's Aung San. Give over. It's getting tiresome. No one's buying it and everyone can see through your constant harping on about AS and the mistake that was Panglong.

Norman Hla Wrote:
28/11/2011
@Freeman(agree yours)Japan was brutal in China(due to fierce military resistance), not Burma. Aged Bama says ruling of Japan,British is “Good century”(Khit Kaung), not U Nu&bama militares. GeneralAS gained to make use of British&Japan alternately, finally ethnics as Daddy’s syndrome(Tocharian-blamed UK).Karen used right Daddy’s syndrome initially.But “GeneralAS Kyat equal right ” persuaded British miscalculation upon after his dead(AS)&shameful Bama-nization(U Nu,militaries). Blaming daddy China,US,UK is naïve. No ethnics languages-taught in high schools/Uni(my “ethnics”means their long suffering). Karens(1.3million population) were well educated during British(Bumese&Eng:Languages-Rangoon university-20%karens although British favored Burmese).Karen might be more sincere to British and hardworking. If Bama isn’t good(history&now) , need best father( daddy syndrome) or immediate than shwe step-down(human life-short). Bilat(UK),Chinese,US, India,Singapore pyans-help Burma speedy,not by greedy bama.

kerry Wrote:
28/11/2011
The area between China and India was not inhospitable terrain, Sir: It was (and is) the Tibet.

Your relations with China are 'interesting' and sanctions have clearly worked.

What the military want is an old paradigm. No-one should have dealt with them.

How Burma approaches 'Development' is surely something that the people of Burma should decide, once they are out of the awful yoke of brutality that has kept them on the ground, and have real and fair elections.

All views are important to consider. There are no 'experts'. Interests are clear but so is the heart of the people.

Okkar Wrote:
27/11/2011
Who killed Bogyote? He himself! He did not heed the warnings form the intelligence officers. He ordered the guards to leave. He, not only killed himself, but also killed other ministers as well. Aung San destroyed the nation.

Free Man Wrote:
27/11/2011
Continued....

On the other hand, we should also try to understand why the Karens, in general, found that their lives were relatively better under the British rule, especially in the respect of education, culture, economy, and law and order. In fact, the Karens were not the only ones who held this view. What would we do if we were in the shoes of the Karens? What would we do if we were the Karens living under a war-like, Burmese, super-Buddhist, feudalistic rule which treated us as serfs, banned us from getting monastic education, grabbed our tilled land at will, constantly waging wars, etc.?

The root cause of the country's problem is nowhere but within ourselves. And they are a lack of parallel thinking and empathy, ignorance, greed, incorrect pride, emotions, the desire to dominate others, our fear of the truth, etc.

http://www2.irrawaddy.com/article.php?art_id=2054
http://www2.irrawaddy.com/opinion_story.php?art_id=17011
http://www.dvb.no/interview/dr-zarni-the-road-to-hell-is-paved-with-good-intentions/17304

Free Man Wrote:
27/11/2011
Pauk Khung Thar: "Damned Brit servents. Who licked Brit toes? Who gave up lives for fleeing white Brits from advancing Nippon troops in WW2?.......... Now is time for all to discuss constructivly."

Agree that we should discuss the problem constructively. But what you have said is contradictory.

I assume that you are basically talking about the Karens here. (FYI - I HAPPENED to be born into the Karen Christian community; therefore, I WAS a Karen Christian.) Let's look at the problem fairly and objectively for the sake of peace and harmony in our war-torn country? We know why some of us accuse the Karens of being the British stooges, spies, etc. We know why some of us hate the Karens. We know how it was like living under an exploitative and oppressive foreign ruler with a different physical outlook, language, culture and religion?

Free Man Wrote:
27/11/2011
RichardEquine wrote:

"The civil war began with the Karen rebellion in 1948 as well as the communist uprising. Joint Karen-Communist offensives almost overthrew the democratic government of U Nu in 1949. It's true the insurgencies got worse under Ne Win, but the civil war was started by ethnic rebels who wanted separation from democratic Burma."

Inaccurate facts. Unobjective and unfair assessment of the problem.

Pauk Khaung Thar Wrote:
26/11/2011
To Erik

I don't know what you are talking about..... You change name and so on?

Do you ever heard Laozi(Lao Tsu)? Laozi was a teacher of "BUDDHA".

Laozi said "the one who calls idiot to other is a real idiot". So Erik, think what have you become?

Norman Hla Wrote:
26/11/2011
By NEHGINPAO KIPGEN Friday, November 25, 2011(Irrawaddy)wrote”Prior to achieving independence in 1948, Burma's then leader Gen Aung San was fully aware that a unified Burma could not be established if equality was not guaranteed for all ethnic nationalities, who were ruled under different administrative units by the British colonial administration.With the assassination of Aung San and his colleagues in July 1947, the dream of equality or autonomy disappeared in Burmese politics. Burma’s first post-independence civilian government of Prime Minister U Nu failed to address the minorities' concern, and successive military governments have attempted to forcefully suppress it”Comment-U Nu signed Ne win to kill Karen leader instead dialogue. In history,Mon ruled Burma first. All ethnics are not belonged to Bama(autonomy).Without Federal, PA is rubbish. Killing ethnics by bama army in their lands is foreign invasion but UN is sleeping and witnessUK is silent(unethical, irresponsible). Above is more to Richard Equine&TMU.

tocharian Wrote:
26/11/2011
Burmese seem to care a lot about who your daddy or grandaddy is (was). Such a medieval and oligarchical society, full of patronage and nepotism, ruled and controlled by the top 1%. ASSK likes to talk about "freedom from fear". What Burma needs is freedom from corruption, coercion, chinese and above all this silly obsession with "who's your daddy" syndrome (not to mention what kind of degrees you have from which universities etc.) During the colonial days it was called "Bilat pyan" (someone who went to England!).
My Burmese ancestors were poor peasants!

Norman Hla Wrote:
26/11/2011
To,RichardEquine:http://www.projectumbrellaburma.com/karenpeople.htm The National League for Democracy and most appear to be willing to form a Federation of Burma and to have discussions with the SPDC but only inclusive with all the other ethnic groups. Others still wishfully think the Karen people should have their own country. And so it continues. Meanwhile an entire society, which was and could be self-sufficient and contribute globally, is dying. In 1995, a small splinter group of the Karen (The Karen Buddhist Army) working with the SPDC accelerated the Karen decline. The DKBA is involved in drug trafficking. The current Karen National Union (KNU/KNLA) has many Buddhists within its ranks. Few seem to know the percentages.Again in 2007 another splinter group was divided from the majority and with SPDC and DKBA help more Border territory was lost.What is your(Richard) comment upon this information?

Norman Hla Wrote:
26/11/2011
Richard Equine:Information( see 2 websites) about Karen is correct or not. Do you agree Karen rebellion in 1948 is their right or not? Burmese communist jointed with Karen rebellion. Burmese communist (might)thinks Karen has right to get own independence(see Karen claims-2websites)Did General AS get angry upon lack of Karen’s signature in Panglong agreement although attending meeting(General AS might have already accepted that Karen has their own right for their land –independence)?It is a big issue now. If Karen’s claim is right, the invasion of bama armies for decades is illegal and UN should take action accordingly.The first main culprit for all ethnics’ suffering is due to coward, selfish British colony who will not and do not come out to act as a witness for this history and important judgment for UN. Just says all witnesses are dead except probably you and it is the dirty “British colony divide and rule”(see India, Pakistan).

Norman Hla Wrote:
26/11/2011
Richard Equine” The Karens are believed to have settled in what today is Burma/Myanmar in the 6th and 7th century BC. Their oral history suggests that they migrated from Mongolia via the Gobi desert to southern China, Yunnan Province then Tibet and on down into the area now known as Burma/Myanmar and Thailand. They have, historically been separate from and treated as inferior to the Bamar/Burman majority. They have a history of suffering.(See www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs3/karenmuseum-01/index.htm) “Unlike the Burmans who wanted freedom from the British, the Karen sided with the British from the beginning of the Japanese invasion to the end of WWII. Despite promises of support in the founding of a Karen Nation the British ignored and neglected the Karen when Burma was given its independence in 1948. http://www.projectumbrellaburma.com/karenpeople.htm My questions are:Why did Karen need to sign Pinglong agreement?Why was General AS accused of cleansing Karen ethnics by British media?

JustinBomber Wrote:
26/11/2011
I'm so glad to see that Dr.TMU appeared in the front row at the Green growth forum in Yangon. Our country is in urgent need of
experts like him who actually have the vast experience on the international affairs and of course not so called random refugees in the guise of political dissidents. It was great to see Mr.Harn Yawnghwe visited as well. Once more NLD's decision
to re-register is a right thing to do at the right time. Meanwhile the army has just reached a ceasefire agreement with some major insurgent groups. As Dr.TMU said we've reached a tipping point now.

Erik Wrote:
25/11/2011
Pauk Khung Thar Wrote:

"Panlong... Panlong .. in short that contract(agreement) caused division between our own ppl. Bo Gyoke was assassinated. Who killed Bo Gyoke? You should know the master brain was not U Saw. Damned Panlong! Panlong was dead together with Bo Gyoke."

Myanmar Idiot, is that you? Why'd you change your name? Finally get the boot? Good. (BTW, your English has really improved.)

Pauk Khung Thar Wrote:
25/11/2011
UTMU is great.

But Panlong... Panlong .. in short that contract(agreement) caused division between our own ppl. Bo Gyoke was assassinated. Who killed Bo Gyoke? You should know the master brain was not U Saw. Damned Panlong! Panlong was dead together with Bo Gyoke.

Damned Brit servents. Who licked Brit toes? Who gave up lives for fleeing white Brits from advancing Nippon troops in WW2?

Don't make Panlong as an excuse for self greed, and desire, and to become a dictator of ethnic minority.

Now is time for all to discuss constructivly.
Life if short. You only live 60-70 years.

RichardEquine Wrote:
24/11/2011
NormanHla wrote: My comment is that the civil war is and was created by bama military rulers who refuses to make obligation of Panglong agreement after death of General AS.

The civil war began with the Karen rebellion in 1948 as well as the communist uprising. Joint Karen-Communist offensives almost overthrew the democratic government of U Nu in 1949. It's true the insurgencies got worse under Ne Win, but the civil war was started by ethnic rebels who wanted separation from democratic Burma.

The Karen never signed Panglong, which was signed by Shan sawbwas, Kachin duwas and Karreni chiefs, all hereditary leaders. Hardly a democratic document.

Norman Hla Wrote:
24/11/2011
In China and US issue, I agree with your point that China is geographically close to Burma but balancing is more important for Burma(all and than shwe know those logic). Only democratic elected government can do above policy with demilitarization( also see above your statement), not by military than shwe( step down at once). US did and do a big brother and police in the world since after world war 2. Is there any real peace in the world with the result of its poor economy(see history)? China is struggling to be superpower now. Do you worry that China will become big brother and police in future ? Nobody know “wait and see” and it might partly depended on the Chinese culture and their social and political learning(risk and benefit to be big brother). Colonization is started by (Europe-British, Germany, Italy) and (Asia-Japan). Now, Is it Americanization and then Chinese-nization in future?

Norman Hla Wrote:
24/11/2011
TMU wrote that “The River of Lost Footsteps,” was exactly that—the civil war in Burma and the rise of its military dictatorship are closely related, and that what we need are not simply ceasefires, but real peace and a new and more inclusive national identity” My comment is that the civil war is and was created by bama military rulers who refuses to make obligation of Panglong agreement after death of General AS. Over the last 2 decades of just ethnics ceasefire agreement(designed by Khin Nyunt), do you see ethnics invade Rangoon and Mandalay?. Bama military rulers(lack of ethics and morals so lack of democracy) are the main culprit for civil war, not ethnics. TMU should make clear your above statement.TMU wrote that"Democracy is impossible without a demilitarization of Burmese society generally." This statement supports my above comment on you. However, you are sincere that you want to help Burma with your expertise(historian) for the time being, not in the field of politics(DASSK).

thein Wrote:
23/11/2011
Totally agree with Tocharian.

Moe Aung Wrote:
23/11/2011
Bama Gyi,

Very funny.

Tine Chit Thu Wrote:
23/11/2011
@ Maung Maung Kyaw "Myanmar should grab this opportunity to ride the Chinese dragon. Grow as the Chinese dragon soar..." you are such an ignorant piece of shit. You must be a true Chinese blood sucking maggot. I dare you, why don't you tell the people in Burma in person what you've said on here and they'll beat you to death. Take a look at Burma on Google earth and you'll can see how much China has taken from our forest and lands.

Khin Wrote:
23/11/2011
Thant Myint O is a good writer and a good speaker. But he does not has good heart like Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and other Burmese Students who sacrifice for Burmese. Since 1988 he is grooming himself to become a leader. Be careful opportunist.

Rangoonwriter Wrote:
23/11/2011
Haha - just look at the difference between small minds like "Tocharian" (mistranslated Mrauk-U! Included too much about his family! Doesn't now the R in Rakhine!) and the big picture issues important for future of Burma that Thant Myint-U is trying to present us. I feel sad that there are Burmese liked Tocharian, who don't really know how to contribute to discussion but only criticize. I am also sure he doesn't know that he is doing anything wrong.

kyaw Wrote:
23/11/2011
Surely, to avoid conflicts of CHINDIA, and innovate diplomacy and new economic and political developments in Myanmar, Burma is at the crossroads. America is letting Asean and India, even futile UN organizations control Aid and Finance for Myanmar. However, both Europe, USA and Asean must admit Myanmar and her peoples are unique, independent and must choose and design her own economic and civil destiny.

Bama Gyi Wrote:
22/11/2011
To achieve glory and to recapture the territories we have lost, Burma needs a war-mongering dictator king like Bayint Naung and absolute monarchy, not a wimp like Thein Sein or democracy or constitution.

tocharian Wrote:
22/11/2011
Thant Myint U is overrated. In one of his books, he translated Mrauk-U:, one of the older Rakhaing cities as "monkey's eggs" (myauk u.). That's like translating his name to be Iron Horse Egg (Than Myin: U.). His knowledge of the Burmese language is not too strong (he doesn't know that Rakhaing people pronounce the letter r (ra-kauk) correctly! Besides most of the content of his book "The River of Footsteps" is just a repetition (I wouldn't quite say plagiarized) of well-known works on Burmese history, except that he adds a lot about his "noble" ancestry (his grandfather, great-great grandfather etc.). Big Deal!

Naw Wrote:
22/11/2011
"Democracy is impossible without a demilitarization of Burmese society generally." Nice word.

We were used to be taught and encouraged to have blood of Bayintnaung when young, instead of universal love on all Burmese ethnics and people. Look at statues of historical fighters at top of the hill in the square of NayPyidaw. This is Burma where idiots ruled since '62.

Maung Maung Kyaw Wrote:
22/11/2011
Finally, a true statesman who talk sense.
Fear not the Chinese. For the matter of fact, the Americans, are more frightening...

He is right that negative views of China in recent years could be tragic for both countries; frankly more tragic for Myanmar. Only those who have little confidence in themselves or of the Myanmar people or those who have very little substance between the ears would be so fearful of the Chinese.

Myanmar should grab this opportunity to ride the Chinese dragon. Grow as the Chinese dragon soar...

Myanmar needs someone with global experience and vision, someone confident, could measure up in the global arena; someone like U Thant Myint to be part of the new leadership. Ever since I read his 'The River of Lost Footsteps' years ago, I felt that he is the one. It will be his calling, the best son of Myanmar perhaps to fulfill U Thant's unfulfilled dream.

To be brutally honest, ASSK just doesn't have it. She is but another Corazon Aquino.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
22/11/2011
Prospects are very good.

Pity U Win-Aung of late and ex-Prime Minister Khin-Nyunt. Treason does not pay.

Moe Aung Wrote:
22/11/2011
He made a lot of very good points. Burma's "emerging role as southwest China's corridor to the Indian Ocean" like the Pan-Asian Highway for trade has to be better than a giant pipeline just to siphon off oil and gas for China's exclusive energy needs.

These "brutal little wars" are brutal but not little for the ethnic groups. It sounds like a chauvinistic slip of the tongue.

Amen to "what we need are not simply ceasefires, but real peace and a new and more inclusive national identity", not a name change.

His view on what China's role should be in the long term for mutual benefit and friendship between the peoples is spot on.

Best still "I fear that we might achieve some kind of democracy before long but that it will be the wrong kind of democracy, where where wealth remains highly concentrated, demagoguery dominates discussion, and where a corrupt gangster-style politics triumphs over everything else. This is far from an unlikely scenario."

Venus Wrote:
22/11/2011
Although I haven't read TMO's first book, I'm greatly impressed his view points and analysis on his last book. But from this interview: To my understanding is that
"If Burma is seen as increasingly important" implies that it is because of previous government's nuclear ambition and US's interest in Naval Base to spy on China, but not because of its natural wealth as all natural wealth have already been gone for long and being exploited. All of them and us, including US, DASSK, and exiled intellectuals have wasted their time for many decades instead of engaging to step forward.

Any way, it is good sign to see all Burmese brain storming today, and it's good to read this interview.

Zl Wrote:
22/11/2011
The US should approach Burma cautiously. The best solution would be for the US to send environmentalist, approach both Burma and China to see if the dam they've stopped building could be a benefit for Burmese people, if not how it should be modified to benefit all! This way, no bad feelings arises and both US and China, will be considered to be a key role players in a global view.

more articles in this section