Category Archives: World

Revealed: UK’s overseas aid fund is major investor in company linked to media crackdown in Myanmar

Pic by Nicholas Ganz (Shutterstock)

The UK government’s overseas anti-poverty fund is “urgently looking into” why a business it owns complied with demands from the Myanmar government to block independent media in the country.

CDC Group’s internal probe was triggered by a Finance Uncovered investigation, which has also prompted Labour shadow international development minister, Stephen Doughty to table parliamentary questions on the issue and suggest CDC should sell its stake in the company.

CDC, the controversial investment arm of the Department for International Development (Dfid), invested US$20m in Frontiir last year – a company providing internet services to 1.3 million Myanmar people.

In March, Myanmar’s transport and communications ministry wrote to all of the country’s internet service providers, demanding they block more than 2,000 websites, including 67 news outlets, on the “pretext” they were spreading fake news about coronavirus.

Frontiir complied with the government’s request, the company confirmed.

Backlash

But this sparked a backlash from Burmese editors, lawyers, and activists.

In a letter of complaint, seen by Finance Uncovered, they accused the provider of flouting human rights law by implementing the government’s orders.

“Your company is helping the Myanmar government censor essential information to vulnerable populations at a period when access to information is key for their very survival”, they wrote.

The Myanmar government, under the watchful eye of the military who retain significant economic and political power, has perpetrated what are widely considered to be serious human rights violations and is violently clamping down on the free media and civil society activists.

The civilian government, which remains subordinate in many spheres to the military, has also overseen the arrest of dozens of dissidents.

When Finance Uncovered asked CDC if it had a view on Frontiir’s decision to comply with the request, a spokeswoman for the bank said it was “urgently looking into these concerns”.

“CDC has clear rules in place to ensure funding does not support any organisation involved in human rights abuses”, the spokeswoman added. 

“We condemn action to restrict the freedom of expression of journalists. The UK Government, our owner, repeatedly raises the issue of internet restrictions and shut downs at the highest levels with the Myanmar Government.”

Conflict

Mobile internet is a vital source of information about coronavirus, but it is also used in conflict-torn regions of the country as a way for communities under attack to warn friends and relatives of coming trouble.

In the northwestern region of Rakhine, formerly known as Arakan state, it has been blocked entirely since last June.

Authorities say the internet blackout is an “emergency measure” necessary to crush the Arakan Army, an ethnic insurgency battling for greater independence.

Frontiir operates in two cities in Myanmar and is currently trying to expand into two more. “None of those cities,” a spokesman for CDC said, “are in or near Rakhine state.”

But some of the websites Frontiir and other internet service providers blocked had held the government to account over its handling of the Arakan conflict, fuelling fears the move is a smokescreen for a further media crackdown.

“The list included independent media websites under the pretext that they allegedly disseminate “fake news””, said the complaint.

“[It follows previous directives] to shut down mobile internet access in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Paletwa and Myebon townships. This was a continuation of previous shutdown orders”, the letter added.

In March, news editor Nay Myo Lin was detained for 10 days and charged with terrorism offences after he interviewed a spokesman for the Arakan Army, which had been designated a terrorist organisation. His outlet, Mandalay-based Voice of Myanmar, is on the list of websites the government wants blocked.

And news editor Aung Marm Oo went into hiding after he was charged last year under the Unlawful Associations Act, a law critics say is being used against ethnic minorities and to stifle political dissent. His Rakhine state news agency, Development Media Group, has reported human rights violations during the Arakan conflict. It is also on the list of websites to block.

At the time of publication, both websites were blocked in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of minority-Muslim Rohingya are confined in camps in central Arakan, while corona cases are rising.

Urgent questions

“The human rights abuses of the Myanmar Government including in Rakhine state are well known, so CDC have urgent questions to answer”, said shadow international development minister Stephen Doughty.

“If these allegations about Frontiir and their relationship with the Myanmar regime are proven, CDC must immediately divest.”

CDC is the UK’s development finance institution, which is meant to fund poverty reduction projects in the developing world.

It is wholly-owned by the Department for International Development (DfID).

The fund began life in the late 1940s as the Colonial Development Corporation to fund farmers in the British colonies as part of the post-Second World War rebuild.

Its work is currently overseen by Africa minister James Duddridge. 

In response to a series of parliamentary questions by Doughty, DfID minister James Duddridge confirmed that CDC has invested $78.8m in Myanmar since 2015 in seven businesses including Frontiir.

CDC has been criticised for pouring cash into shopping centres, gated communities, and luxury hotels in poor countries.

It has also drawn criticism for allowing huge windfalls to senior figures through the sell-off of Actis, one of its investment funds. Senior CDC managers effectively sold it to themselves at below market value, investigative magazine Private Eye revealed in 2010.

More recently, the fund was criticised for failing to properly oversee its investments and prevent human rights violations.

Frontiir said its investment from CDC Group had been ploughed into job-creation: 

“[The majority] of Frontiir’s 2100+ employees are Myanmar, and most are under 25 years old who are supporting their families in various regions with remittance”, it said in a statement.

“Frontiir intends to grow beyond urban cities and provide affordable digital access in other regions in Myanmar, including rural hard-to reach areas, while creating jobs for people in Myanmar with CDC’s investment.”

By: Nick Mathiason & Christian Eriksson
Credit: www.financeuncovered.org

SK Telecom sends cyber experts to Myanmar amid national SOC development

South Korean provider also targets expansion through Vietnam and Thailand

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) of Myanmar has moved to bolster cyber prevention and defence capabilities through a security-focused partnership with SK Telecom.

Terms of the contract will see the South Korean provider deploy a team of cyber security specialists to Myanmar to consult on the “design and establishment” of a security operation centre (SOC) at the government agency until the end of July.

Leveraging SK Telecom’s ‘Smart Guard’ solution, the team will attempt to diagnose security vulnerabilities within NCSC’s existing cyber security infrastructure, alongside offering infrastructure security management guidance and advice.

This is in addition to the provision of SIEM (security information and event management) offerings developed by Korean security specialist Igloo Security. The solution will “collect and analyse” information – such as logs, errors and hacking – generated by diverse systems including servers, network equipment and applications.

“We are pleased to establish our SOC with SK Telecom’s advanced technology and know-how in infrastructure security,” said Ko Ye Naing Moe, director of NCSC. “We will work closely with SK Telecom to better protect Myanmar’s national intelligence and intelligence resources.”

Operating as an agency under the Ministry of Transport and Communications in Myanmar, NCSC is tasked with safeguarding national intelligence against cyber threats, including hacking and distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks, as well as protecting the nation’s information and communication networks.

“SK Telecom will work closely with the NCSC to build a sophisticated security operation system in Myanmar to strengthen its protection against the ever-increasing cyber threats,” said Shim Sang-soo, vice president of Infra Business at SK Telecom. “Going forward, armed with strong cyber security capabilities, we will seek further business opportunities in other Asian markets.”

Following the export of services to Myanmar – which Sang-soo said serves as a “strategic hub” connecting the emerging ASEAN markets – SK Telecom expects to expand security reach across other Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and Thailand.

Credit: sg.channelasia.tech

China flips the electoral script in Myanmar

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi shake hands before a bilateral meeting at the Presidential Palace in Naypyidaw, January 18, 2020. Photo: AFP/Pool/ Nyein Chan Naing

CHIANG MAI – Elections are scheduled for November in Myanmar, and there is no indication so far that the polls will be postponed due to the Covid-19 crisis. Neither is there much doubt about the outcome.

Most political observers believe that State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) will win again, though not in the same landslide fashion as in 2015 as recent by-elections show she and her party have lost significant support in ethnic areas.

But the bigger electoral question is how her party’s delicate relationship with the autonomous military will play out and in that context how her government’s ties to its powerful northern neighbor China will be portrayed and potentially politicized on the campaign trail.

An entirely new paradigm has emerged in Myanmar, one where Suu Kyi is now seen as a trusted ally of Beijing and the military as a nationalistic bulwark against China’s strong advances. That’s a significant reversal, one that could have implications for stability in the lead-up to polls.

When Suu Kyi was under house arrest during military rule or active in non-parliamentary politics, China viewed the long-time pro-democracy icon with suspicion. That was at least in part because her late British husband, a Tibetologist, maintained ties with many Tibetans in exile.

The military, on the other hand, was closely allied with China and depended on friendly relations with Beijing for arms supplies and diplomatic support at the United Nations, particularly when Western nations sought to refer its harsh political repression to the Security Council for possible sanctions.

Fast forward to the present and those tables have turned. Suu Kyi has become China’s go-to politician for projects and schemes, while the military, though not openly critical of Beijing, has sought to keep a distance from its advances.

The flipped script has been driven by geopolitics. The Rohingya refugee crisis, and Suu Kyi’s refusal to condemn the carnage the military unleashed in Rakhine state in 2017, have dramatically turned her from being the darling of the West into an international pariah.

She has been stripped of one human rights award after another, many of which she earned during her long non-violent struggle for democracy against abusive military rule.

As such, Western aid can no longer be taken for granted in Myanmar, with most grants conditional on improvements in or respect for human rights. But economic development is crucial for Suu Kyi to maintain her popularity ahead of this year’s election.

That has pushed her ever closer to China and its no-strings-attached aid and assistance. Indeed, in November 2017, just months after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees streamed across the border into Bangladesh, Suu Kyi was given red carpet treatment in Beijing.

In January this year, Xi Jinping became the first sitting Chinese president to visit Myanmar since Jiang Zemin toured the country in December 2001. Xi arrived in Myanmar with 33 bilateral agreements that if implemented will bind Myanmar ever closer to China.

Those include high-speed rail and deep-sea projects and strengthening of the so-called China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which aims to give China direct access to the Indian Ocean. The agreements were crucial parts of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which Myanmar joined as a founding member in 2015.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Myanmar military’s commander, may have visited Beijing a week before Suu Kyi arrived in 2017, a visit at which Xi described Chinese-Myanmar military relations as “the best ever”, but both knew in reality that wasn’t and still isn’t the case.

Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has tried to show the Myanmar army does not discriminate against other faiths. Photo: AFP/ Thet Aung

Myanmar’s military sees itself as the chief defender of national sovereignty and, according to security analysts in Yangon, the generals are apprehensive about China’s rapid economic and infrastructure expansion in the country.

That apprehension is compounded by insurgencies in ethnic Palaung-inhabited areas in northern Shan state and Rakhine state in the west, where the Arakan Army (AA) has grown from a handful of guerrillas to a formidable fighting force in the span of less than a decade.

It is hardly any secret that both the Palaung Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and AA are equipped with Chinese-made weapons obtained through the United Wa State Army, Myanmar’s strongest and best-armed ethnic army which has a long-time close relationship with China.

In November last year, the military expressed its displeasure that the country’s most active insurgents carry mainly Chinese arms. A huge cache of Chinese-made weapons, which the military claimed it had captured from the TNLA, was put on public display and shown on national television.

Among the haul was automatic assault rifles, recoilless rifles, boxes with bullets, RPGs and even a FN-6 shoulder-fired MANPAD, or man-portable air-defense system gun. Pictures displayed on social media have recently shown an AA commander carrying an FN-6, a gun which has been seen previously in a civil war situation only in Syria and Iraq.

China’s double-game in Myanmar, where it serves as both an armed conflict mediator and supplier of arms to insurgents, is a long-worn carrot and a stick approach to get what it wants, namely the CMEC and access to Myanmar’s rich natural resources including copper, gold, jade, amber and rare earth metals.

Myanmar is the only immediate neighbor through which China can bypass the congested Malacca Strait and the contested waters of the South China Sea, putting the development the deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu on the Bay of Bengal high on Beijing’s BRI agenda.

Source: Twitter

But China has not yet secured all it wants in Myanmar. A massive hydro-electric power project at Myitsone in the far north of the country was suspended in 2011 by then-president Thein Sein, a former army general. As much as 90% of the power produced was scheduled for delivery to China.

Moreover, the initial $7.5 billion price tag for the Kyaukphyu port project has been winnowed down to $1.3 billion amid concerns of a possible Chinese debt trap.   

Whether the military rolled back these two big-ticket projects is not immediately clear. Privately, however, sources close to the military’s leadership believe Suu Kyi is moving the country too close to China, without taking into consideration what Chinese largesse might mean for national sovereignty.

The Covid-19 crisis may increase that concern as Western investment has been largely shelved and China alone seems to be willing to assist and invest even more in Myanmar during the pandemic.

On May 20, Xi spoke by phone with Myanmar President Win Myint to highlight China’s donation of medical supplies and two medical teams to Myanmar to help fight the disease. China’s ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai emphasized in a recent interview with the Myanmar Times that Beijing remains committed to investing in the country despite Covid-19.

But that investment will likely accrue more political benefit to Suu Kyi and her NLD than the military’s aligned United Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in an election year, raising the prospect that Beijing’s deepening influence could for the first time become a political issue on the campaign trail.

Credit: asiatimes.com

Myanmar prepares response to International Court order on Rohingya

File Photo | Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi addressing judges of the International Court of Justice  

The Netherlands-based court had in January issued an order for Myanmar to implement provisional measures for the protection of the Rohingya.

Myanmar says it will submit a report due on Saturday outlining its claims of compliance with an order from the International Court of Justice to protect members of its Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority.

The Netherlands-based court in January issued an order for Myanmar to implement provisional measures for the protection of the Rohingya. The court agreed last year to consider a case alleging that Myanmar committed genocide against the group, an accusation vigorously denied by the government. The court’s proceedings are likely to continue for years.

Myanmar’s military in August 2017 launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced about 7,40,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

Chan Aye, director general of the International Organisations and Economic Department of Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry, said on Friday that the government was working on the report, but would not discuss its contents before submitting it.

Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for Myanmar’s military, said it has complied with government orders by providing “complete and necessary information” for the report.ALSO READMyanmar and the limits of pan-Islamism

There is no obligation to make the report public.

The court order requires Myanmar to “take all measures within its power” to protect the Rohingya from genocide, to safeguard evidence relating to allegations of genocide and to prevent “public incitement” to commit genocide.

The court has no enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance, and similar orders in high-profile cases in the past involving Serbia and Uganda were ignored without consequence.

The most significant measure taken by Myanmar’s government since the court order appears to have been an April 8 presidential directive that all “military or other security forces, or civil services and local people under its control or direction do not commit (genocidal) acts.”

Critics, however, note that Myanmar’s military has a record of impunity regarding alleged offenses conducted by its personnel.

“While Myanmar’s recent presidential directives ordering government personnel not to commit genocide or destroy evidence appear in line with the International Court order, the reality remains that no meaningful steps to end atrocities — including the crime of apartheid — have been taken,” the human rights group Amnesty International said in a statement Friday.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered Rohingya Muslims to be “Bengali” immigrants from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

Credit: www.thehindu.com

Myanmar To Build Two Earth Observation Satellites With Japanese Assistance

Image courtesy of Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University.

Myanmar is to build and launch a small Earth observation satellite by 2021 with the assistance of Japan.

Engineers and technicians from the Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University will travel to Japan as soon as travel restrictions imposed due to the Coronavirus pandemic are lifted, where they will be trained and educated by satellite engineering faculty at the Hokkaido and Tohoku Universities.

The small satellites will weigh approximately 50 kilograms and measure 50 x 50 x 50 centimetres, and will be used for remote sensing to monitor agricultural conditions, environmental monitoring, and disaster surveillance.

The students from Myanmar will spend up to five years working with the Japanese universities and will build two small Earth observation satellites, with the aim of launching the first one by the end of 2021. The students will be trained in satellite engineering and manufacturing, satellite data analysis and interpretation, as well as in all the necessary steps from satellite mission conception and development through to launch and on-orbit operations.

The total cost of the training programme is US$16 million for the training and accommodation of the students, the development of the two satellites, and their subsequent launch. All of the costs will be paid for by the Myanmar government.

The training of graduate students from Myanmar in Japan is part of a Myanmar government initiative to develop and establish its own space and satellite programme, and is being overseen and administered by the vice president of Myanmar, Myint Swe.

Japanese diplomats, space industry executives, and university officials have visited Myanmar often and met with officials there to lobby Japanese satellite technology and services. This lobbying has attracted much criticism from human rights activists, but Japanese analysts argue that if they did not provide Myanmar with satellite technology then Myanmar’s political leaders would simply seek it from countries such as China.

Credit: spacewatch.global

China provides medical supplies for Myanmar’s COVID-19 fight

Photo taken on May 13, 2020 shows medical supplies donated by Chinese government at the handover ceremony in Yangon, Myanmar. The Chinese government donated more medical supplies to help Myanmar in its fight against COVID-19 on Wednesday. (Xinhua/U Aung)

The Chinese government donated more medical supplies to help Myanmar in its fight against COVID-19 on Wednesday.

A total of 150,000 pieces of nucleic acid test kits and 18,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) were handed over to the Medical Research Department under the Myanmar’s Health and Sports Ministry.

“This donation of test kit portrays the strong contribution to Myanmar’s COVID-19 fight to produce more testing capacity here,” Dr. Zaw Than Htun, director-general of the department, told Xinhua.

It was learnt that the Chinese government has donated over 162,000 pieces of nucleic acid test kits, 3.95 million pieces of surgical masks, 48,600 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies to Myanmar so far since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.

As part of the medical assistance, two groups of medical experts from China’s Yunnan province and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently assisted in Myanmar’s prevention, control and treatment measures against COVID-19.

Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai (L) hands over medical supplies donated by Chinese government to Dr. Zaw Than Htun, director-general of Medical Research Department under the Myanmar’s Health and Sports Ministry, in Yangon, Myanmar, May 13, 2020. The Chinese government donated more medical supplies to help Myanmar in its fight against COVID-19 on Wednesday. (Xinhua/U Aung)

As of Wednesday morning, Myanmar has reported 180 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with six deaths.

Credit: www.globaltimes.cn

UN to hold video conference over violence, virus in Myanmar

A Myanmar border guard watches over a police station in northern Rakhine last year. (AFP pic)

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council will hold a video conference to discuss the escalation of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the effect of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, diplomatic sources said Monday.

The closed-door meeting, planned for Thursday, was requested by the UK. The UN envoy for Myanmar, Switzerland’s Christine Schraner Burgener, is scheduled to give comments.

At the end of April, a Myanmar government health worker was injured and his driver – who worked for the World Health Organization (WHO) – was killed when their United Nations-marked vehicle was ambushed as they carried Covid-19 test samples in conflict-ridden Rakhine state.

The country’s northwest has been embroiled in an increasingly brutal civil war between Myanmar’s military and Arakan Army rebels demanding more autonomy for the state’s ethnic Rakhine population.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attack. He called for “a full and transparent investigation” and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, his spokesman said in a statement.

The attack came amid increasing calls for a global ceasefire and protection for civilians displaced by the pandemic.

The last Security Council meeting on Myanmar was in February. China, which backs Myanmar and regularly opposes UN intervention in the country, prevented the adoption of a joint statement by the 15 Council members.

Scores have been killed in Myanmar, hundreds injured and tens of thousands displaced since fighting erupted at the beginning of last year, with both sides trading allegations of abuses committed.

Since the start of August 2017, about 740,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh, fleeing atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and Buddhist militias, in what has been described as “genocide” by UN investigators.

The exact number of Rohingya killed during the violence is unknown, but multiple NGOs estimate it to be at least several thousand.

During a briefing Monday on the pandemic, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that the UN Development Programme and the UN Refugee Agency had reached an agreement with Myanmar’s government to extend the Memorandum of Understanding through June 2021 in Rakhine state.

The memorandum “aims to allow for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh”.

Credit: www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Pope Francis Visits Myanmar

Pope Francis

Amid the atmosphere fuelled with distrust and intolerance, Pope Francis made his maiden visit to Myanmar in the first week of December. His visit was carefully observed and followed by the experts for it was imperative for him to maintain his moral authority of being the guardian of the poor and the powerless, and at the same time refrain from engaging in any act which could transpire unpleasant situation for Catholics in Myanmar or mar diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Naypyidaw which got established recently. Thus, his conscious non-admission of the term ‘Rohingya’ during his speech was an outcome of this arrangement.

The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics – Pope Francis, professed all to respect each other’s identity and ethnic diversity. He stated that his main purpose of visiting the country was, “to pray with the nation’s small but fervent catholic community, to confirm them in their faith, and to encourage them in their efforts to contribute to the good of the nation.” Stressing on the Christ’s message of reconciliation, forgiveness, peace and harmony, Pope Francis set the resolve behind his two-nation apostolic visit.

During his visit, he urged all to ‘commit to justice and respect for human rights’ with state authorities, religious leaders and civil society members playing the most crucial role of peacebuilding. His meeting with the state counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi got preceded by top military general Aung Hlaing’s interaction with him who mentioned that there is ‘no religious discrimination’ in Myanmar.

Catholics from across the country flocked in huge numbers to Yangon to be blessed by Pope’s healing presence who led an open -air Mass. He shared “Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building. Religion can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in years of conflict.”

Israel Supports Myanmar in Agriculture

Israel Supports Myanmar in Agriculture

Israel’s Ambassador Mr. Daniel Zohar Zonshine in a very confident and undeterred pose expressed his interest in continuing to support the agricultural sector of Myanmar even amid the outbreak of an indurate political occurrence, sweeping Myanmar to the den of criticism.

He established investor’s protection and security as the pivotal premise in being able to pave way for a robust and engaging economic relationship between Israel and Myanmar. In other words, an economic environment that has the potential of attracting the interest and confidence of an investor should be the primary goal. He acknowledged that an investor’s security generates and accelerates the investment canvas of a country and thus, Myanmar’s investment interactions should be recognised in this light.

Israel Supports Myanmar in AgricultureIsrael’s involvement in reforming and realigning the agricultural sector of Myanmar’s is over 20 years old. Its support in providing advanced technological know-how and proficient expertise has helped Myanmar in redefining its agricultural scale.

In the past, Israel has successfully conducted agriculture – training programmes for Myanmar students, allowing them to study and work in private rural settlement areas. Getting paid for their research projects which range from greenhouse activities to husbandry farming, has been encouraged too.

Being an agriculturally driven economy,the Israeli efforts in welcoming the Burmese students to their pool of technology, and exposing them to their level of efficiency and farming practise, Myanmar’s future in agriculture seems positive and supported. The training camp running for 11 months ensures an evolved youth who is well versed in all stages of agriculture; from planning, preparation, cultivation to harvest and post-harvest etcetera.

While remarking on the collaborative relation with Myanmar in the agricultural sector, Mr. Zohar Zonshine also noted, “Agriculture is a chain: by strengthening one link, you may not necessarily get better results unless the whole chain is improved. It has to do with agriculture research, access to technology and finance, and farmers being able to access information, data, and infrastructure. Other areas to have added value are developing the processing industry – it gives more jobs for people who cannot continue with agriculture, and leaves more added value in the country.”

It is in the best interest of both the countries to aid in training and capacity building aspects of human resource engaged in agricultural work. The ambassador also mentioned about an Israeli company’s presence in Myanmar – Netafim, helping Myanmar with its drip and micro-irrigation products. Thus, an active exchange of expertise, skills and technical know-how has helped Myanmar’ agriculture sector improve and develop.

UK Interested in Boosting Myanmar’s Transport Infrastructure

Mr. Andrew McNaughton - UK's Prime Minister
Mr. Andrew McNaughton – UK Prime Minister’s Business Ambassador for Infrastructure

Myanmar has transitioned into a land buzzing with business opportunities, with economic avenues expanding and exhorting the attention of global companies. The latest entrant to revise and revamp the infrastructural paradigm of Myanmar is the United Kingdom. The UK has expressed interest in supporting the large-scale infrastructural requirements of Myanmar, specifically its transportation unit; railway networks, airports and rapid transit system.

This welcoming news was brought to light after UK‘s Prime Minister‘s Business Ambassador for Infrastructure – Mr. Andrew McNaughton, visited Myanmar to explore opportunities at the infrastructural front for UK’s Department of International Trade (DIT) and UK companies.

According to Mr. McNaughton “The immediate opportunity for the UK to provide support would be in transport and in particular, mass transportation rail projects and the airport development program.”

Leveraging its strength, experience, expertise and Myanmar’s immediate need for infrastructural investments, UK business companies are enthusiastic about effectuating their economic and commercial interests, at the same time, acknowledging the potential urbanization process and infrastructural development that Myanmar will significantly be impacted with.

Myanmar is looking forward to capitalizing on sources to generate financial assistance to meet its infrastructural needs. For this purpose, a robust logistics sector with a sound legal and regulatory framework is an essential and a necessary requirement to be able to build internationally aligned market structures and attract capital investments thereof.

On this, Mr. McNaughton remarked, “The establishment of a market structure requires significant development of regulations and legal structures to be able to establish an environment to contract with international organizations. UK legal, financial and support services companies have extensive experience of working with governments around the world to establish such structures.”

He also lauded British technical and technological know-how which could assist preciously in Myanmar’s railway and airport projects.

In railways, he measured and estimated upgradation of long, intercity lines connecting the major cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, and revamping the Yangon mass rapid transit. This arrangement aims to decongest the traffic and also boost the growth of the city to 10 million by 2040. The plans also involve the introduction of two new metro lines and development of two airports namely: Mandalay International Airport and the new Hanthawaddy International Airport in Yangon. The mid-term objective is to grow cross border international trade as well as support regional airport program.

Thus, infrastructural scope in Myanmar is colossal and plays a planetary role in the urbanization process and in boosting the economy of Myanmar. As per business experts, refinement of transportation infrastructure is the fundamental requisite in attracting inward investments, retention of human capital and in escalating trade possibilities, leading to sustainable prospects and future-oriented growth.

Remarking upon ‘more opportunities and a few challenges’ in the MyanmarUK potential alliance, Mr. McNaughton exclaimed, “As an outcome of the Brexit process, the UK government and individual businesses are seeking to establish long term relationships beyond the European Community. This is being done without having to consider the views of 26 other member states. This creates agility and a momentum that can only be an advantage to the region.”