The Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping
and Chemical Fertilizers Mr. Mansukh Lal Mandaviya flagged
off a Friendship Motor Car Rally from India Gate lawns in Delhi. This
drivers participating in this rally will travel from Delhi all the way
to to Bangkok today. Ambassador of Thailand Mr. Chalit Manityakul
was also present on the occasion. This rally is aimed at improving
connectivity by road in the South-East Asian region and to sensitize the stakeholders of India, Myanmar and Thailand Motor Vehicle Agreement regarding potential benefits of such a regulatory regime. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Mandaviya stated that this rally will prove greatly beneficial in developing the economic, transport and cultural relations between the three countries. He said that this rally
will takeIndian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s ‘Act East Policy’
and will improve India’s relationship with neighboring countries. A
commemorative stamp for IMT Rally, 2016 was also released on the
The rally caravan will span a total distance of 5,722 KMs along the
IMT Trilateral Highway and 80 participants from all the three
countries are participating in it. Participants will travel in 20 Indianmade vehicles and cover the distance from Delhi to Bangkok in 19 days. Ceremonial flag off will also be held in other cities and
state capitals enroute. These cities include Sarnath, Bodhgaya, Patna, Siliguri, Guwahati, Shillong, Kohima and Imphal in India, Began and Yangon in Myanmar and Bangkok in Thailand. The rally that will conclude at Bangkok on 2nd December and it is hoped that sensitize people about the fact that an all-weather road connecting New Delhi and Bangkok would soon be operational. It will show that with the opening of trilateral highway, traveling from New Delhi to Bangkok by road will soon become possible.
The Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival sets the skies of central
Myanmar ablaze every year. These celebrations are a part of
Tazaungdaing Festival of Light which is celebrated in November each year to mark the end of Myanmar’s rainy season. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful fireworks celebrations in the world and also the most dangerous.Brightly colored balloons with hundreds of homemade fireworks woven into their frames were sent soaring into the night sky, showering down cascades of sparks onto adoring crowds.These balloons are loaded with explosives and they regularly crash to the ground. It causes panic among the crowds but visitors still stay because they believe that’s the sight is worth the risks.
People travel to the capital of Shan state from various parts of
Myanmar and even from various parts of the world to watch these
celebrations. The tradition of this way of celebrating is rooted in
Buddhism but the hot air balloon contest itself was started by British colonialists in the late 19th century. So, many people are present that it looks like a whole sea of people. Many first timers are amazed and say that they have never seen so many people at one place before. It is really scary when the fireworks fly right at you and sometimes people die too. In 2014, three people were killed when a balloon crashed onto spectators below. A young child also died when a balloon was blown into the family’s tent.Balloon work hard for months to create the most brilliant spectacle of light in order to
win the contest and then they see all their work explode and disappear in minutes.
Besides fireworks and spectacular balloons this festival offers various other exciting experiences as well. Here you can witness a human powered ferris wheel at the festival’s fairground where workers scamper across the 50-foot high rickety structure like spider monkeys, using their body weight to send it spinning around at extraordinary speed. Some of them dangle from the bars as the ride hurtles toward the ground, while some others swing between the bars upside down as the wheel turns.
Myanmar is a Buddhist majority country where Theravada Buddhism is the most practiced religious tradition. This is a
place where pagodas, monasteries, and various other historical structures related to Buddhism thrive in abundance.
When you walk around in Myanmar you will get to see the stunning site of monks dressed in their traditional red robes all
around. In Myanmar, each male is expected to serve as a monk twice in his life. The first time a person joins a monastery
as a novice and the second time he is expected to become an ordained monk.
The people of Myanmar show their true love and respect for Buddha and his symbols not only by keeping him and his teachings in their heart but also through their actions. Buddhists of Myanmar buy gold leaves and apply them to pagodas and Buddhist statues.The magnificent gold-plated Shwedagon Pagoda can be seen shining
from anywhere in Yangon. Both rich and poor are equally devoted Buddhists and they believe that building pagodas is a very noble
act. Rich people often fund the building of these pagodas. When pagodas get old or damaged they are quickly restored to their original splendor. Numerous people visit pagodas every day and they always follow the rule of going barefoot.
Besides the pagodas and monks another thing that you will immediately notice in Myanmar is a lot of people walking around with their faces painted with a yellowish powder. This yellowish substance is called thanaka and it is an inherent part of Myanmar’s culture. When you visit a Buddhist temple, the attendant there might apply it to your face as a ritual. When applied to skin it feels cool and gives a wonderful fragrance. The people of Myanmar believe it is good for the skin and it matches their complexion very well.
The Swiss Embassy has announced that it has decided on a plan to
promote vocational training for the youth of Myanmar. This plan has
been formulated in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and
the Ministry of Labor and Industry. Switzerland’s Ambassador to
Myanmar Mr. Paul Seger stated that they target groups to promote
vocational skill training to university students, teachers and the private sector. This decision is a part of a series of events that have been planned to acknowledge 60 years of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Myanmar.
Representatives from the Swiss Embassy in Myanmar state that
their priorities in Burma areto engage in cooperation regarding
development and support for the government-led peace process. To
show their commitment to the peace process in Myanmar, last year in December 2015 and also in January 2016, Switzerland invited respective delegations from the Karen National Union and the Restoration Council of Shan State to their country for exposure trips relating to Swiss federalism. These two groups are two of the largest nationwide ceasefire agreement signatories.
About the vocational training project, Mr. Seger said that the
Swiss Embassy would spend US $ 5 million in 2017 on a series of skillsbased training in Myanmar. He plans to target high school students, teachers, owners and managers of local businesses, as well as a wide range of government authorities. Deputy Director of Cooperation at the Swiss Embassy Ms. Carin Salerno,stated that vocational training for Myanmar’s youth will focus on the hospitality, beauty and clothing industries, as well as offer mechanical skills like welding. These vocational training will be promoted through “road shows” throughout the country in 2017
The construction of China backed Myitsone dam was halted in 2011
due to environmental and safety concerns. Now the Government of
Myanmar is considering whether it should resume the construction
of this dam. Myanmar’s State Counselor and Minister for Foreign
affairs Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has commissioned an environmental
and social impact assessment on the project before making a final
decision. According to various environment experts, this dam poses
serious threat to the environment. The dam is located in the northern Kachin state of Myanmar and has a total cost of approximately US $ 3.6 billion. Besides the results of
environmental assessment, the opinions of local people and potential effect on foreign investment will also be considered before making a decision.
Environmentalists and protesters have vociferously opposed the
construction of the dam because its location is highly controversial. The Myitsone dam’s location is near an active seismic fault which means that once finished it might cause flooding in nearby areas.The dam was designed to send back the vast majority of the electricity produced back to mainland China. The project was awarded to China by Myanmar’s previous Military Government as a reward for supporting it and shielding it from the effects of international sanctions. This decision is going to be tough for Myanmar because it would not want to upset China which even today is the biggest foreign investor in Myanmar.
As the era of rapid telecom subscriber growth in Myanmar has ended, one of the chief operators in the country, the Norwegian telecoms company Telenor, will now focus on improving its internet services. Myanmar’s telecoms sector was liberalized in 2011 and soon after that Telenor established itself as the number 2 player in the market with 18 million subscribers. The initial phase saw tremendous growth in the telecom sector with various companies competing to get more customers. However, now that the growth phase has subsided, focus has shifted towards providing better data services. Most people in Myanmar who wanted a SIM card have already obtained it and now the companies are competing to retain existing customers rather than targeting on getting new ones who have never used a cellphone before.
In Myanmar there are no fixed line alternatives available to most people and many people don’t even own a computer. Therefore, people are jumping at the chance to be able to access the internet through their smartphones. Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber are already extremely popular in the country. Main competitors of Telenor are Qatar’s Ooredoo and Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) which has partnered with Japan’s KDDI Corp in order to improve its services. According to estimates, MPT has 21 million customers while Ooredoo has 9 million subscribers. Telenor is 3 million customers behind MPT and for in the third quarter this year,5.3 percent of its worldwide revenue came from Myanmar. Around 40 percent of this revenue came from data services while the remaining 60 percent was from voice calls and text messages.
Quasar Resources, a Texas-based energy development company, is planning to invest from up to US $ 400 million in the Myanmar’s power sector over the next five years. The company is looking at developing a 100 MW solar power station in Sagaing Region of Myanmar. It will invest around US $ 150 million in this project. Quasar Resources has already begun talking to the Myanmar Government in order to take the project forward. Following approvals, the company is hopeful of completing the project in one
year. Recognizing the huge potential of the power sector in Myanmar, various private firms are keen to enter it. Around 70 percent of power in Myanmar at present comes from hydroelectric plants. Quasar Resources has plans to focus on solar energy which will prove to be beneficial in summers when water runs low in dry areas and the production of hydroelectric plants is impacted.
This firm is also talking to the local government for developing a 64 MW hydel power plant in the Upper Saedawgyi region. This project will require an investment of around US $ 150 million and will involve building a new dam to increase capacity.Quasar Resources also has plans to set up a 100 MW power plant in Thilawa Special
Economic Zone which will be built in three phases of 33 MW each. Quasar Resources has already raised private capital and is currently in advanced discussions with some more entities to secure additional funding. Besides Quassar Resources, Myanmar has seen investments from other corporations in the power infrastructure field. Some of these include US based ACO Investment Group
and Convalt Energy‘s 300 MW project in Myingyan and Thailand’s Green Earth Power Co. Ltd. plant in Minbu.
On November 2, 2016 the Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Shinzo Abe announced that Japan will provide 800 billion Yen (US $ 7.73 billion) to Myanmar over the next fiveyears. The money will be provided in order to assist the peace process and the development in the country. The statement was made at a joint press conference with Myanmar State Counsellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi during her visit to Japan. Mr. Abe said that he hopes that the funding will help Myanmar develop. Out of the promised funds, 40 billion Yen (US $ 387 million) will be used to assist ethnic minority groups and the remaining will be invested in airports and electricity projects. In a meeting that took place prior to the press conference, Mr. Abe pledged Japan’s full support for public and private sectors in Myanmar.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged Japan’s assistance as helping Myanmar to ensure peace and stability. She said that she believes that Japan will prove to be a trusted partner of Myanmar during this period of her country’s transition. Ms. Suu Kyi’s visit to Japan was focused on promoting Myanmar as a destination for investors. Earlier, she visited China, the United States and India for the same purpose. According to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the fiscal year 2014, which ended in March 2015, Japan’s direct investment in Myanmar reached US $ 86 million and Myanmar’s export to Japan hit US $ 513 million. Most of the exports from Myanmar are clothing and farm produce and in this fiscal year it imported US $ 1.3 billion worth of products from Japan which were mostly cars and machineries.
Myanmar’s State Counselor Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has slammed Tokyo for providing economic assistance to the country, which was at the time ruled by the military. However, now she is willing to join hands with Japan for practical benefits. Ever since her party assumed power, Ms. Suu Kyi has taken a very pragmatic approach. She put aside her differences with military leaders and business tycoons who made a fortune during the junta era and chose to give priority to economic development instead. She has even gone as far as to maintain relatively friendly ties with the former junta leaders who effectively imprisoned her for more than 14 years. She has also
pledged to refrain from targeting the corrupt tycoons. She is following the same policy with Japan in order to uphold the best interests of her country.
Some experts believe that she is trying to find a balance in getting along well with both Japan and China at the same time. Her recent trip to Japan provided Japanese firms a fresh momentum to advance further into Myanmar. The lifting of sanctions by the U.S. is also an
encouraging factor as in the past many Japanese firms have avoided doing business with blacklisted entities. Many Japanese firms are already operating in Myanmar and have brought in heavy investments. With Ms. Suu Kyi’s attitude softening towards Japan, many more businesses and more investment is expected to enter Myanmar’s economy. Myanmar is a growing economy with great
potential and many Japanese firms operating here are already making huge profits. With Ms. Suu Kyi allowing and even encouraging Japanese firms to do business in her country many more companies are likely to follow.
Myanmar’s State Counselor Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is promoting an overhauled investment law to a new generation of smaller businesses. She hopes one day these small businesses will be able to dilute the influence of Myanmar’s old military-linked oligarchs.
This new strategy and planning is aimed at leveling the market field so that local businesses of Myanmar are able to stand up to the foreign companies and survive and thrive alongside them. This new law was signed on October 18, 2016 after the United States President Mr. Barack Obama formally dropped all the remaining U.S.
imposed sanctions on Myanmar.
The United States decided to drop the sanctions because it saw Myanmar moving towards becoming a complete democracy. This was the result of years of struggle by Ms. Suu Kyi and various other supporters of her cause which resulted in National League of Democracy to win the elections in Myanmar and come to power. Many investment and government officials worked hard to design the new streamlined law in order to make it easier and faster for smaller, local businesses to obtain operating permits. Myanmar’s
economy is expanding rapidly and it is hoped that local businesses will be able to provide a big boost to it.