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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid