Category Archives: Social Matters

Aung San Suu Kyi appeals to the International Community for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Solutions amid Rohingya Outcry

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi breaks her silence and delivers a diplomatic briefing, postulating her stand on the Rohingya matter and the call for sustainable peaceful solutions in Myanmar.

Full Speech by Aung San Suu Kyi:

Excellency’s and Distinguished Guests,

Last year, when I addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly as the representative of the newly established government of Myanmar, I reaffirmed our faith and confidence in the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. It is in this enduring belief in the capacity of nations to unite to build a more peaceful and prosperous world, a kinder and more compassionate home for all mankind, that we wish to share with members of the international community, the challenges that our country is now facing and the steps that we are taking to overcome them. This year, as I shall not be able to travel to New York for the United Nations’ General Assembly, I have arranged this diplomatic briefing.

When our people voted for the National League for Democracy in the elections of 2015, they in fact entrusted to us, the task of carrying out three responsibilities: democratic transition, peace and stability, and development. None of these challenges are either easy or simple. The transition for us is a transition to democracy after half a century or more of authoritarian rule, and now we are in the process of nurturing our nascent and yet imperfect democracy.

Peace and stability were something that we had to achieve after nearly seventy years of internal conflict that started on the day of our independence back in 1948.Development has to be achieved within the context of the first two – nurturing democratic values, establishing peace and stability, and achieving the kind of sustainable development that would be seen as equitable by all our people.

Burma is a complex nation as all of you know, and its complexities are compounded by the fact that people expect us to overcome all of these challenges in as short a time as possible.

I think it is only fitting that I should remind you today that our government has not yet been in power for even eighteen months. It will be eighteen months at the end of this month. Eighteen months is a very short time to expect us to meet and overcome all of the challenges that we have been expected to do.

This does not mean that we are not ready to go on with our task of overcoming these challenges. I believe in the community of nations, I am prepared to share with all our friends who wish us well and who understand our problems and sympathies with us, what we have been doing to achieve democratic transition, peace and stability, and development.

I am aware of the fact that the world’s attention is focused on the situation in Rakhine State. As I said at the General Assembly last year, as a responsible member of the community of nations, Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny and we are committed to a sustainable solution that would lead to peace, stability, and development for all communities within that State. I then went on last year to give a brief outline of our plans to achieve this end.

Unhappily, on 9 October 2016, eighteen days after the delivery of my address at the General Assembly, three police outposts were attacked by armed Muslim groups. There were further attacks on 11 October and 12 November and these clashes resulted in the loss of lives, injuries, burning of villages and the displacement of people in the affected areas. Many Muslims fled to Bangladesh.

Since then, the government has been making every effort to restore peace and stability and to promote harmony between the Muslim and Rakhine communities. Even before these outbreaks took place, we had established a Central Committee for rule of law and development in the Rakhine and invited Dr. Kofi Annan to lead a Commission that would help us to resolve the longstanding problems of that State.  But, in spite of all these efforts, we were not able to prevent the conflicts from taking place. Still, throughout the last year, we have continued with our programme of development and the establishment of peace and harmony.

After several months of seemingly quiet and peace, on 25 August, thirty police outposts, as well as the Regimental Headquarters in Taungbazar village, were attacked by armed groups. Consequent to these attacks, the government declared the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and its supporters responsible for acts of terrorism, as a terrorist group in accordance with the Counter-Terrorism Law, section 6, subsection 5.

There has been much concern around the world with regard to the situation in Rakhine. It is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abnegate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace, stability, and rule of law, throughout the State. The security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the Code of Conduct in carrying out security operations, to exercise all due restraint, and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians. Human rights violations and all other acts that impair stability and harmony and undermine the rule of law will be addressed in accordance with strict norms of justice.

We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people who have been caught up in the conflict. Those who have had to flee their homes are many – not just Muslims and Rakhines, but also small minority groups, such as the Daing-net, Mro, Thet, Mramagyi, and Hindus of whose presence most of the world is totally unaware.

Humanitarian assistance was provided to displaced communities by a team led by the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement from 27 August 2017 onwards. Details of humanitarian assistance programmes will be made available to all of our guests in due course.

The final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State chaired by Dr. Kofi Annan, was made public on 24 August, in fact, the very day on which the last round of attacks took place. We are determined to implement the recommendations of the Commission. Those recommendations that will bring speedy improvement to the situation within a short time frame will be given priority. Other recommendations we will have to take time over, but every single recommendation that will benefit peace, harmony, and development in the Rakhine State will be implemented within the shortest time possible.

The government is working to restore the situation to normalcy. Since 5 September, there have been no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations. Nevertheless, we are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. We want to find out why this exodus is happening. We would like to talk to those who have fled as well as those who have stayed. I think it is very little known that the great majority of Muslims in the Rakhine State have not joined the exodus. More than 50 percent of the villages of Muslims is intact. They are as they were before the attacks took place. We would like to know why.

This is what I think we have to work towards. Not just looking at the problems, but also looking at the areas where there are no problems. Why have we been able to avoid these problems in certain areas? For this reason, we would like to invite the members of our diplomatic community to join us in our endeavour to learn more from the Muslims who have integrated successfully into the Rakhine State. If you are interested in joining us in our endeavours, please let us know. We can arrange for you to visit these areas, and to ask them for yourself, why they have not fled, why they have chosen to remain in their villages, even at a time when everything around them seems to be in a state of turmoil. Apart from what we are doing in the matter of allaying the fears of our people, I would like to say that we have been continuing with our socio-economic development programmes in Rakhine.

Let me outline a few of them. The Rakhine State Socio-Economic Development Plan 2017 – 2021 has been drafted to boost regional development in various sectors. Hundreds of new jobs and opportunities have been created for local people through Public-Private Partnerships. The viability of a new Special Economic Zone to bring new jobs and businesses is being assessed. In terms of infrastructure development, electrification has been expanded with new roads and bridges built, including a new highway connecting remote areas previously only accessible by boat. All people living in the Rakhine State have access to education and healthcare services without discrimination. Healthcare services are being provided throughout the State including hard to reach areas, with new mobile clinics. The government has upgraded 300 schools in Rakhine. The vocational and technical training programmes have begun. Muslim students also have access to higher education without any discrimination.

Humanitarian aid reached all communities in 95% of the affected areas before the recent attacks on August 25. We are now starting another round of humanitarian aid endeavour which we hope will take care of all the people in the region.

With regard to IDP’s, three camps have been closed and the necessary assistance provided, including the building of new houses. There is more to do in this area. We are aware of the challenges and we are facing them.

With regard to citizenship, a strategy with specific timelines has been developed to move forward the National Verification Process. But this is a process which needs cooperation from all communities. In some Muslim communities, their leaders have decided that they are not to join in the verification process. We would appreciate it if all friends could persuade them to join in the process because they have nothing to lose by it. We are also trying to promote inter-communal religious harmony by engaging inter-faith groups. A new curriculum is to be introduced in schools with a focus on moral civic ideas and peace and stability.

A new FM radio channel has been set up to provide information on, amongst others, healthcare, national verification process, and education to all communities. It broadcasts in Rakhine, Bengali and Myanmar languages.

Training and capacity building for police and security forces is being provided in cooperation with the EU and United Nations agencies.

Since December 2016, local and foreign media groups have been given access to areas previously off-limits in Rakhine. Even after the outbreaks on 25 August, we arranged for several media groups to visit the afflicted areas.

The government is working hard to enhance existing relations with Bangladesh. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and the National Security Advisor visited Bangladesh in January and July of this year. We were also hoping for a visit from the Home Minister of Bangladesh but it had to be postponed, for reasons, I think of other commitments on the part of the Minister. We will welcome him at any time that he is able to come and we hope to take forward the arrangements with regard to the security of the border which we are trying to implement together.

There has been a call for the repatriation of refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh. We are prepared to start the verification process at any time. A verification process was set up as early as 1993 and based on the principles to which both countries agreed at this time, we can continue with the verification of those refugees who wish to return to Myanmar. We will abide by the criteria that were agreed on at that time. As our National Security Advisor has assured Bangladesh, and which I can confirm now, we are ready to start the verification process at any time. Those who have been verified as refugees from this country will be accepted without any problems and with full assurance of their security and their access to humanitarian aid.

I understand that many of our friends throughout the world are concerned by reports of villages being burnt and of hordes of refugees fleeing. As I said earlier, there have been no conflicts since 5 September and no clearance operations. We too are concerned. We want to find out what the real problems are. There have been allegations and counter-allegations and we have to listen to all of them. And we have to make sure that these allegations are based on the solid evidence before we take action.

Action will be taken against all people, regardless of their religion, race, or political positions who go against the laws of the land and who violate human rights as accepted by our international community. We have never been soft on human rights in this country. Our government has emerged as a body committed to the defense of human rights. Not of any particular community’s rights, but of the rights of all human beings, within the borders of our country.

As we concentrate on problems in the Rakhine State, I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that there are problems as serious for us as what is happening in the west of our country. We have been trying to build peace out of internal strife. A peace that must be lasting and that must be accompanied by sustainable and equitable development. We would like to invite you to take part in this peace process.  To join us in finding lasting solutions to the problems that have plagued our country for years.

The peace process that we started last year in August is continuing and we are having many difficulties. I am not surprised by this because it is the way of peace processes anywhere in the world, that they come across difficulties and sometimes the processes stall and sometimes they come to a dead halt and sometimes it seems as though everything is falling apart, and yet, in the end, we all gather together and move forward. We all want peace rather than war. We want harmony rather than conflict. This is the aspiration shared by all our peoples: peace, stability, harmony, and progress. It is not a large agenda, but it is a difficult one.

And as we go forward in our efforts to redress the ills of this nation, I would like to ask our friends who understand and sympathize with, both our aspirations and our problems, to join us. We would like you to join us in a positive and constructive way to find new paths towards peace and stability and towards harmony.

We would like you to think of our country as a whole. Not just as little afflicted areas. It is as a whole only that we can make progress. I would like to use the analogy of a healthy human being. A healthy human being has to be healthy all over. You cannot neglect his general health just to concentrate on one particular ill.  I use this analogy because our [health] sector is one that has made the greatest progress since we came into the administration last year. By concentrating on public health, we have found that other health problems can also be better addressed. For example, within one year, deaths from HIV were halved – not because we are concentrating just on HIV/AIDS, but because we were concentrating on public health as a whole, the health of all of our people and all our communities. This is how I would like you to look at our country.

We are a young and fragile democracy facing many problems, but we have to cope with them all at the same time, in the way that we have to cope with all of our health problems at the same time. We cannot just concentrate on a few. I would like to invite you to join us in finding new ways, new answers, more constructive, more positive, more innovative, and possibly more daring.

If we cannot resolve our problems quickly, it does not mean that we are never going to be able to resolve them. It just means that the suffering of our people is extended. We would like to bring an end to the suffering of our people as quickly as possible. We would like to make our country a nation, within whose borders; everybody can live in security and prosperity. This is a large order. This is a big ambition. But it is not one impossible to fulfill. We all have to join together.

I accept that the real responsibility lies with us, the people of this country. All the people of Myanmar, from the government, to each and every single individual within this country has the responsibility for the development and progress of this country. But, we would like our friends to join us in our great endeavour. This is certainly a big endeavour. An ambitious endeavour. A determination to build out of a country, beset by many problems, a State that is healthy, that is strong, that can look forward to a secure future.

It is sad that in meeting our diplomatic community, I am obliged to focus on just a very few of our problems when there are so many which I think we could resolve together. That is why I am opening the door to all of you who wish to join us in our endeavours. We invite you to join us, to talk to us, to discuss with us, to go with us to the troubled areas, where we can guarantee security for you, because we don’t want the added problems of anything happening to any of you, so we would like you to join us, then to see for yourself what is happening and think for yourself, what can we do to remove these problems? And also, I want you to take special care to study the peaceful areas – how have they managed to keep the peace? How have they managed to preserve harmony? Why are they not at each other’s throats in these particular areas? These are the answers that we need. It is not just a matter of removing ills, but also of promoting what is positive. We have to remove the negative and increase the positive, and we would like to do that together with all of you.

As you will probably be aware, our Minister for Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement is leading our humanitarian assistance programme. We are very happy that the International Committee of the Red Cross is joining us in this and we would welcome others who would like to aid us in our endeavours.  Many have already committed to helping us by donating generously – in cash as well as in kind. We will make sure that everything that is given towards the promotion of peace and harmony in the Rakhine is used in the best possible way to benefit all communities.

We don’t want Myanmar to be a nation divided by religious beliefs, or ethnicity or political ideology. We all have the right to our diverse identities and we all have the right to strive to fulfill our lives in the ways in which we believe are right. But we also have to work together because we belong to one nation. And as we belong to one nation, we also belong to this world.

It is for this reason that we place great importance on the role of the United Nations as an assembly of nations which was created to promote peace and harmony, to ensure that our world should not ever again, in future, fall into the suffering that we all experienced during the Second World War. It was with the intention of putting an end to wars – that is to say – putting an end to conflicts that the United Nations was established, and I would like to think that what we are doing here today may be the beginning of a truly strong and effective movement to bring an end to all the conflicts within Myanmar. The conflict between our communities, between our people, and also the conflict of ideas with regards to how we are to go forward. Conflicts of ideas can be sorted out, can be removed through discussion and dialogue and through open-mid and the generosity and courage that enables us to see other people’s point of view. I would also like to say that the generosity and courage that would enable other people to see our point of view as well.

It is by cooperating only, that our world can go forward. By attacking each other, either with words, or with weapons, or even with emotions, will not help us. Hate and fear are the main scourges of our world. All conflict arises either out of hate or fear. It is only by removing the sources of hate and fear that we shall be able to remove conflict from our country and from our world.

As you know, there are many allegations and counter-allegations. I have not gone into any of them because it is not my purpose to promote and encourage conflict, whether of ideas, or of arms, but to try to promote harmony and understanding. I hope that you will understand us and join us in our endeavors.

As I said earlier, this is a diplomatic briefing. This was intended to keep the members of our diplomatic community and the representatives of our friends from all over the world, in touch with what we are trying to do. But in some ways, it is more than just a diplomatic briefing. It is a friendly appeal to all those who wish Myanmar well. A friendly appeal to help us to achieve the ends that I think, you would agree is desirable, not just for this particular country, but for countries all over the world.

India and Bangladesh to Construct a Bridge Over Khawthlangtuipui River

Bridge Khawthlangtuipui River

To ensure enhancement in trade and ease in the connectivity of the two neighboring countries; India and Bangladesh, the decision to construct a bridge over Mizoram’s Khawthlangtuipui River has been given a green signal.

Karnaphuli River
Karnaphuli River

With Bangladesh, India shares the largest international land boundary; 4096 km, most with any of its neighbors.

Ms Sheikh Hasina
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina

Rowshan Ara Khanam, an official from Bangladesh shared, “The proposed bridge would be an important linkage between India and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has taken a number of steps to make it a reality. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina has given the approval to construct the bridge and link roads.”

It has been suggested to construct the bridge nearest to the land customs station in Bangladesh. The effort aspires to strengthen ties between the working of both the countries; hassle-free road connectivity and smooth communications.

The meeting to roll out this decision was arranged at the Tlabung town, Mamit district in Mizoram which lies in close proximity to the Khagrachari district of Bangladesh.

World’s First Floating LNG Terminal to be Constructed in Bangladesh

Floating Terminal

The Moheshkhali Floating LNG project will be Bangladesh’s first LNG import terminal, located off Moheshkhali Island in the Bay of Bengal. The project’s purpose is to meet clean energy demands of the country by generating natural gas in enhanced capacities; by up to 20%.

US$ 179.5m has been secured by IFC (International Finance Corporation) and Excelerate (Excelerate Energy Bangladesh) to fund the project.

Excelerate’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Nick Bedford, believes, “Excelerate takes great pride in helping bring sustainable energy solutions to countries with high energy demand, and we expect this project to have a great impact on the wider Bangladeshi economy.”

On implementation, the project anticipates an increase in the natural gas supplies of the state-owned energy company – Petrobangla, by up to 3,000MW.

The construction of the terminal has been slated to begin in the later months of 2017 and shall be put to practice in the succeeding year of 2018. Excelerate shall be responsible for the project in its entirety; development, designing, construction, installation, finance, and operations. The Moheshkhali Floating LNG terminal is being regarded as the first fully integrated turnkey floating LNG terminal of the world.

Excelerate Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Rob Bryngelson remarked, “Excelerate is the only FSRU provider capable of delivering a comprehensive end-to-end floating LNG import solution and we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Petrobangla in Bangladesh.

Post 15 years of providing its services, the project’s ownership shall be transferred from Excelerate to Petrobangla.

The structure of the terminal shall encompass Excelerate’s Floating Storage and Regasification Units (FSRU), port service vessels and subsea buoy system.

The development of the LNG terminal seeks to strengthen and support the power industry by tapping into diverse sources of natural gas reserves present in the global market. This may enable utilization of domestic natural gas reserves in a manner more efficient and sustainable and also aid in elevating economic growth levels through the creation of job opportunities and infrastructure in the region while shielding the Bangladeshi economy from the drastic impacts of climate change.

China to Bolster Bangladesh’s Development Projects

Bangladesh Map

To accelerate business and bilateral relations between China and Bangladesh, an Investment Forum highlighting the business climate of Bangladesh underscoring potential investment sectors, policy regulations, trade opportunities and expansion possibilities, will take place in the last quarter of August.

Sponsored by Bangladesh’s leading bank- The City Bank Limited and the Standard Chartered Bank, and organized by one of the most premier financial publications across the globe – Euromoney, the China-Bangladesh Investment Forum will be an attractive and a promising business crusade, bringing together institutional investors, portfolio managers, multilateral financiers , government officials, and global asset managers to explore potential business opportunities in Bangladesh and bolster the ChinaBangladesh trade relations as an outcome of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Bangladesh Mr. Abrar A. Anwar shares his view with regards to Bangladesh’s massive economic capacity, “There are a lot of investment opportunities coming out in Bangladesh, Asia and also around the globe. China is a major economy, so we believe that private sectors in China would be looking at opportunities outside China.”

Bangladesh plans to promote itself as an avid investment destination and welcome China’s investment interests while acknowledging China’s continued business cooperation with them.

An informative podium engaged with discussions pertaining to capital and financial markets, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), infrastructure and the like are anticipated. It has been highlighted that participation by Chinese private business companies will considerably push Bangladesh’s development strategy. However, to increase and ensure continued Chinese investments in Bangladesh, incentive generation and elimination of procedural bottlenecks have been insisted upon.

This forum is monumental in attracting investments from China, which is being credited as the world’s largest source of FDI. This economic conference also aspires to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries, fueling long-term business impact and bilateral relationship.

Bamboo Technology Park : Inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Assam in Guwahati

Mr Sarbananda Sonowal
Assam Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal

The North-East of India is considered a paradise abound with unique and exquisite natural resources. Recently, Bamboo Technology Park was instituted at Chaygaon in Assam with an investment of Rs. 62.28 crore.

Bamboo is an abundant and a highly valued natural resource found in the North-East of India, particularly in Assam. Its anti-erosional and renewable property makes it a multipurpose resource. Due to its varied usage, it is copiously cultivated in the homesteads, village gardens, and agricultural lands and even in the field boundaries.

While inaugurating the Bamboo Technological Park in the vicinity of Guwahati, Chief Minister of Assam, Mr. Sonowal stated, “There are hundreds of MSME’s that produces incense sticks and bamboo handicraft products. Two very large paper plants are in Assam that uses bamboo as the raw material.”

The park has been equipped with the modern Common Facility Centre for producing creative and innovative bamboo products. The facilities include vacuum pressure treatment plant, bamboo stick and resin making facility, to name a few.

The cumulative efforts of private entrepreneurs, the Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion helped in establishing the Bamboo Technology Park, with the view to ensure optimum utilization of bamboo at the commercial level.

North-East India Builds Energy Cooperation Mechanism with Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal

Free LPG Connections
Free LPG connections being distributed to the beneficiaries

On a majestic mission to build a smooth and seamless energy cooperation mechanism, massive pipelines connecting Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal, shall be strategically laid out by India to put off the challenges caused by the treacherous terrains of the North-East of India.

The scope of the project is integrative and ambitious in nature as the aforementioned neighboring countries have united to commence the initial operations. This mechanism would facilitate convenience in transporting petroleum products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), diesel and other variants.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan envisioned the ‘North East Hydrocarbon vision 2030’ with the aim to augment the hydrocarbon production in the North-East of India, proposing an investment of Rs.1, 30,000 crores over 15 years. About 6, 900 km of pipeline shall be stretched across the regions of Sitwe (Myanmar), Chittagong (Bangladesh), North-East of India, and the Siliguri and Durgapur regions of West Bengal.

This geographical connectivity across regions is a strategic and a well-planned move to steer away from wastage, inflammation, and most crucially, benefit the masses by meeting their essential needs for clean cooking gas and fuel. Aligned to this goal, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) scheme was introduced by the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi to aid the women beneficiaries populating the Below Poverty Line strata. The Free LPG connections being distributed to the beneficiaries scheme has managed to distribute LPG connection to about 2.7 crore beneficiaries, post its launch in May 2017.

Remarking on the foundation stone laying ceremony for an LPG bottling plant at the industrial park of Bodhjungnagar, Mr. Pradhan further shared, “The proposed bottling plant at Bodhjungnagar would be able to cater to the rising demand of cooking gas in Tripura. Existing Silchar (in southern Assam) bottling plant’s capacity would also be augmented by 60 metric ton per annum ensuring smooth supply of LPG in the Northeastern states.”

With the aspiration of adding 10 crores new LPG connections by 2019, in order to attain maximum coverage of the households of India, the energy mechanism has been put in place.

Japan to Aid North-East India’s Infrastructural Interests

PM Modi and Mr Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan and India – Mr. Shinzo Abe and Mr. Narendra Modi respectively

Japanese involvement in India’s keystone infrastructural projects has significantly contributed in supplementing India’s growth stories. Its efforts and interest remain relentless and persistent as it embarks upon developing and boosting infrastructural prospects in the North – East of India while leveraging on the North-eastern pool of resources and its proximity to the South-East Asian countries.

With India being weighed as the gateway to the South East region, and also actively interested in pursuing its Act East policy, Japan’s interest in providing its technical know-how, expertise and experience in the realm of connectivity based infrastructure: roads, railways, electricity, disaster management, forest resource management and so on, is loud and clear.

Against this backdrop, the Coordination Forum for Development of North – East has been set up by India and Japan to expedite infrastructural development in the North Eastern part of India, after the Ministry of Development of NorthEastern Region (DONER) recognizes the priority areas that require immediate attention and operations.

The India – Japan Cooperation Forum for Development of NorthEast included officials from external affairs, finance, road transport, power as important participants, along with Japan Embassy’s ambassador, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu and DONER Minister, Mr. Jitendra Singh, who inaugurated the forum.

The relationship between Japan and India has strategically gained significance and both the countries look forward to an engaging people-to-people and cultural exchange platform to seek, supplement and strengthen developmental opportunities while maintaining and building historic relations.

As per the International Community, Japan and India have the potential to be mutually-giving partners, with the surfeit of North-Eastern manpower available to boost Japan’s economy and Japan’s intrinsic and engaging interest in developing the NorthEastern part of India.

Mizoram Embarks on Solar Power Projects

Mizoram Solar Power

In the quest to provide sustainable power solutions and meet its 10.5 % renewable purchase obligation by 2021-22, the state of Mizoram has articulated and given a concrete shape to its Solar Power Policy, advocating 80MW worth solar projects in 2017.

With the ambitious plan of scaling investments in the solar sector, multiple incentives have been ensured, encouraging the development of solar projects, with special emphasis on the rooftop and ground-mounted placements.

Apart from focusing on decentralized and off-grid power projects; solar street and solar home lighting system, solar water pumping and solar power plants, Mizoram’s solar power policy’s range of incentives involve – Rs.115 per Watt for a microgrid of up to 10 kW, Rs. 99 per Watt for a mini-grid of 10 kW to 500 kW. An installation of 1 kilowatt to 500 kilowatts qualifies for an incentive of 70% of the benchmark cost and an incentive of Rs. 20 lakh /MW can be received for emplacing a project in a solar park. The Government of Mizoram has shown interest in issuing incentives worth 50 lakhs / MW to the farmers and the jobless on account of their participation in developing a project in the solar park.

The policy has strict stipulations with regard to all official state departments and institutions, along with the government of Mizoram, in installing solar rooftop systems. The policy formulates the setting up of grid-connected rooftop solar projects in all the buildings of the state, within the contracted capacity of 1KW and above.

Further incentives are in the form of 100% refund of the stamp duty on land purchased for the purpose of development of solar projects in the state. All facilities vis-à-vis manufacturing, production and other ancillary engagements have resorted to electricity duty exemptions.

Bagan: A Jewel of Southeast Asia

Bagan

Lying on the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy river – 150 kilometers south-west of Mandalay, the vast plain of Bagan is a home to thousands of Buddhist temples that combine to form one of the richest archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and an extraordinary testament to the religious devotion of Myanmar’s people and rulers over the centuries.

Along with offering views quite unlike anywhere else on the earth, one of the beauties of spending time in what is now officially called the Bagan Archaeological Zone is that, once you have paid your K25,000 entry fee, you have the freedom to explore this fascinating area at your own leisure. Bagan is in general more-touristy and possibly less of the ‘real Myanmar’ than other parts of the country, but despite obvious sales ploys such as a multitude of children selling hand-drawn postcards, you will rarely suffer the hard sell – and the locals remain warm and friendly.

An Ancient Kingdom

BaganBagan (formerly known as Pagan) was the capital of a large influential kingdom from the ninth to the thirteenth century. This kingdom was the first to unify the area that is now Myanmar, establishing the Burmese culture and ethnicity as well as Theravada Buddhism in the region. Over this period of rule, as the city and kingdom grew in stature, over ten thousand temples were built on the surrounding plains.

Mongol invasions eventually led to the fall of the Kingdom of Pagan, the city was reduced to a small settlement, never to recover its past glory. The area did, however, remain a destination for Buddhist pilgrimage. A few hundred temples were added between the thirteenth and twentieth century, but the extensive earthquake damage over the years meant only 2,200 temples remained, in differing states of repair.

Indeed, over the last five hundred years, many of the existing temples have been renovated – a process continuing till date, has yielded mixed results. Many say that Bagan has not attained the UNESCO World Heritage site status due to the Myanmar government’s insensitive updates in the 1990s, although it is once again being considered. However, the area is large enough and there remains so much of what is original still to see, that none of this stops the area from being a unique wonder to behold.

Bagan

A Vast and Diverse Area

Each of the 2,200 plus temples, stupas and pagodas has its own unique story to tell, and many can be freely explored inside and out. Some are locked, but even if you are traveling around without a guide, you can sometimes find a friendly local nearby to open them for you. The most spectacular time to see the temples is when the sun dramatically rises and falls over the plain at dawn or dusk.

A large earthquake hit Bagan in 2016 and caused significant damage to some of the temples, but ironically, much of it was to the more modern additions to the then ancient structures. Many believe that the quake may actually end up encouraging more sensitive development in the area, and the vast majority of temples are now once again free to be explored.

Exploring the Temples and Plain

There are a number of ways to explore the area:

  • By Bicycle

This is the cheapest way to get around, and allows the most freedom to do as you choose; the plain is too large to explore by foot, but getting around by bike allows you to get to most of the temples. Almost all hotels and guesthouses offer them for hire, as do various restaurants and shops on the popular ‘Restaurant Row’ in the town of Nyaung U.

You can also cheaply hire an electric bike – through on the flat plains of Bagan, the advantages over a bicycle are minimal (tourists are not allowed to use motorbikes in the area).

You can pick up a free tourist map showing you the main points of interest; although you are unlikely to get seriously lost, it is worth planning your trip in advance to make the most of your time. Bear in mind that it can get hot and dusty when cycling, particularly during hotter times of the year, so carrying water is essential and helps you beat the heat. You can pick up refreshments at the many restaurants and tea shops in the area.

  • Horse and Cart Guided Tour

This is the most romantic way to tour the temples. Most drivers can speak minimum English and have the profound knowledge of better routes around the temples along with few hidden gems. However, horses have to follow more well-trodden tracks than bicycles, as there are areas they cannot reach. Prices range from K15,000 to K25,000 for a day, depending on the season.

  • By Car

If you want to avoid the heat and dust completely, take an air-conditioned taxi or minibus. This is naturally the most comfortable way to get around, and most drivers speak some English. Cars will usually cost between $20 and $50 per day, depending on the season and how far you travel.

  • By Hot Air Balloon

The most exotic and spectacular way to see the temples is to head to the sky. Trips cost USD285 per person and offer a unique view of the plain and temples. You should always book well in advance, particularly at popular times of the year such as Christmas and the New Year (the ballooning season runs from October to April).

Taking two or more days and using different forms of transport can be the best way to explore the plains. If you see the highlights by horse and cart or hot air balloon, then following it up with a bike ride can be the ideal way to find the specific temples that have taken your fancy.

Bagan

A Guide to the Top Temples

The best approach to explore temples with a guide, but you can also get some advice from a friendly local and start exploring on your own. There are some sites that should not be missed, which include:

  • The large and the beautifully maintained Ananda Pagoda – A huge festival takes place here in late December, which celebrates the traditional lives of farmers in the area; locals come from surrounding villages in their decorated bullock carts and camp on the plain. Theatrical troupes provide entertainment, and on the final daybreak, there are formal alms given to monks who live in the nearby monastery.
  • The Gawdaw Palin Pagoda which sits on the banks of the Irrawaddy River
  • The Myoe Daung Monastery – a beautiful teak-built structure and the imposing Tharabar Gate in Old Bagan.
  • The distinctive red brick Dhammayangyi temple, covering the largest area of all the temples in the area.
  • The tallest structure on the plain, The That Byin Nyu temple.
  • Amazing sunrise and sunset views from the Shwesandaw Pagoda and Pyathada pagodas. As of the new season starting in October 2017, there will also be a number of new hilltop viewpoints to stop overcrowding on the temples, and hopefully climbing on the temples will be restricted.
    Of all the pagodas in Bagan, the Shwezigon Pagoda in Nyaung U is a traditional Myanmar temple complex.

Away from the towns and most famous temples, exploring off beaten tracks can be a lot of fun; the pagodas that can be found east of Nyaung U, along with the banks of the Irrawaddy, are a good example. Here you will find open temples with beautifully preserved interiors, from the top of which you will see fantastic views over the river – and hardly other tourists.

For more background, history and more impressive collection of artifacts from the region, head to the Bagan Archaeological Museum, located off the main road near the river bank in Old Bagan (entry$5).

Content and Photo Courtesy – Marcus Allender, Founder, Go-Myanmar.com

From the Land of Shan State

Shan State

Shan State is one of the most popular States in Myanmar for tourists, not only because of its cuisine, but also because of the different attraction it offers. It is located in the Middle Eastern part of Myanmar, and its capital Taunggyi is famous for the Hot-air Balloon Festival.

It is also famous for the beautiful Inle Lake, where the floating gardens, the fishermen village and the unique way of one-leg paddling will fascinate you.

For adventurers, Hsipaw and Kalaw are two great cities to be in touch with nature and do trekking while Kakku Pagodas are a must visit the religious site.

If Asian food is one of the best and most varied in the world, imagine a country with its own delicious cuisine plus a healthy dose of Asian ingredients and cooking styles. Burmese cuisine is also very healthy, favoring fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish products like fish sauce and fish paste and fermented seafood.

Here are three of the most popular and authentic Shan State dishes:

1. Shan Noodles

Shan Noodles

Shan noodles are one of the most popular dishes in Myanmar. You will find them in every teahouse and restaurant. You can have them either as a soup or as a salad, and in both cases, the sauce is the same. The noodles are different. The ones used for the soup are sticky and flat rice noodles, whereas the ones used for the salad are thick and round rice noodles.

To prepare the sauce, they blend tomatoes and then add salt, sugar, oil, sugar cane sauce and paprika. Then everything goes in a pot to boil.

2. Shan Yellow Rice Cake with Tomato Sauce

Shan Yellow RiceShan Yellow RiceThis is one of the dishes, when tasted, gets glued to your memory and taste buds forever.

For cooking the rice, there is no trick, just wash it, add water, turmeric powder for the yellow color, salt and a little bit of chicken powder.

There are two different tomato sauces, one to mix with the rice and the other to put on top of the rice cake.

For the first one, cut tomatoes in half, add salt and cook them in a pot until you have a sauce. Leave to cool. Remove the tomato skin. Then, you stir the yellow rice to make it a little bit sticky and mix it with this tomato sauce. Before pouring all the tomato sauce, separate some in a bowl and add turmeric oil. Use this mix to wet your hands and season the rice cake while you shape it.

The second tomato sauce to add on top of the cake is the key. To prepare it, heat oil and add onions, garlic, fermented soya bean powder, dried chili powder and turmeric powder. Then, add grained tomatoes, salt and chicken powder. At this point, you can also add coriander or spring onion and chicken or pork.

There is always another side sauce to add on top of the cake, turmeric and garlic sauce. Just heat oil, fry garlic and then add turmeric powder. Its crunchy-garlic touch is amazing. And any cracker like pork skin, bean or rice goes perfectly well with this dish.

3. Black Sesame Seed and Sticky Rice Cake (KhorPoat)

Shan KhorPoat

This is a very traditional snack in Shan State made with purple rice, black and round sesame seeds and salt.

It is really interesting to see how they prepare it. They, place the cooked rice into a stone “bowl” situated on the ground and add black round sesame seeds (already mashed) and salt. Then there is a “wooden machine” that smashes and mixes it to form the dough.

To sell it, they separate the dough into small portions of the same size and wrap it in the banana leaf so that it doesn’t dry.

The most popular and tasty way of having it is fried or barbequed, although you can also eat it raw. It is usually eaten in winters and served with brown sugar or jaggery on the side. It only costs between 100-200 kyats ($0.1 – 0.2).

Content and Picture Courtesy – Mr. Juan Gallardo, Writer at Myanmar Travel Essentials

Juan has traveled extensively to discover everything about Burmese cuisine, tasting traditional dishes cooked for him by the locals. It is these amazing dishes, the warmth of the people and the beauty of the land that is captured in his book “Delicious Myanmar”.