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

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora