News / Asia

World Economic Forum Opens in Burma

Burma's President Thein Sein speaks during opening ceremony of World Economic Forum, June 6, 2013
Burma's President Thein Sein speaks during opening ceremony of World Economic Forum, June 6, 2013
VOA News
The World Economic Forum for East Asia opened Thursday in Burma's new capital, Naypyitaw.  Business leaders, ministers and governments from all over the world are meeting to discuss topics such as foreign investment, development, and trade for the region.  

Burma's President Thein Sein officially opened the World Economic Forum for East Asia in Naypyitaw, alongside the forum's founder Klaus Schwab, who predicted a staggering growth rate of 10 percent for Burma's economy.

The forum is an independent international organization intended to discuss a number of issues facing developing economies in the region, in particular the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In other sessions, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and reformist minister Soe Thein engaged in a live debate, and discussed the possibility for constitutional amendment, lack of independence of the judiciary, and reconciliation with activists and ethnic minorities.

Aung San Suu Kyi also addressed the role of the military in government.  She was criticized for similar comments made in Hawaii in February, when she expressed "fondness" for the military.

"The military have special place in the hearts of our people.  I want a military that is professional and honorable, and there to defend our nation, and this is the kind of army my father wanted when he founded it," Suu Kyi said.

She also praised so-called cronies who amassed large fortunes under the military regime for now spending the money at home for humanitarian causes, instead of hiding it in foreign bank accounts.

Tarek Sultan, chairman of Agility, a Kuwaiti logistics firm, sat on the opening panel.   He says there is incredible investment potential in Southeast Asia for the next 10 years, but free trade and logistical barriers within the ASEAN bloc present significant barriers.

"I think it is very clear that the largest barriers are the supply chain impediments that are holding back investment and growth.  And in fact the research shows that growth would improve by 10 percent if some of these soft barriers, supply chain barriers, were to be addressed," Tarek Sultan said.

Many rights groups expressed concern that it is still too early in the reform process to hold this type of forum in Burma.  

Burma Campaign UK criticized organizers for ignoring the ongoing human-rights abuses of the army, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the past two years, and shared concern that this type of forum lends legitimacy to a government that persecutes its own citizens.

But Dave Mathieson of U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch believes this type of forum should be regarded as part of the reform process.

"But it is a forum that is basically discussing the future of the country.  It is a forum that is trying to bring together a lot of disparate voices, and talk about all the concerns that we've been talking about for the past two years during the reform process," he said. "So while it might seem a little bit too early and seem as something that is legitimizing the government, I would not actually say so, I think it is a mark of how the country is trying to open up."
 
Mathieson cited concerns about a rush to invest in Asia's last frontier market, and said the biggest human-rights issue being addressed at the forum was greedy land grabbing and displacement, especially in ethnic areas with tentative and fragile peace processes.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid