My years with UEHRD

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By Professor Dr. Aung Tun Thet
  • By Prof Dr Aung Tun Thet


Just over a week ago, the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD) commemorated the second anniversary of their founding in Nay Pyi Taw.
The State Counsellor delivered a heartfelt speech at the event, which was wholeheartedly attended by relevant officials, ambassadors, civil society organizations and members of the UEHRD as well. Rakhine youths provided entertainment with traditional dances and performances and a video on the progression of education in the state was played.

The journey from
two years ago
While I was attending the anniversary of the UEHRD, my mind floated back to two years ago when it was first established. I was thinking of the thoughts and conceptions at that time and also comparing it with the one year anniversary from the previous year. The UEHRD was established by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and she leads it as well.
UEHRD was founded to respond to the various conflicts spawned by the attacks from ARSA on 25 August, 2017. The State was able to lead the private sector to participate. Businesses from Myanmar donated to the UEHRD to fund its efforts. They took oaths. The State Counsellor took the position of Chairperson and formed it with the two remaining people.
A meeting was held at UMFCCI to gather the participation of businesspersons and different task forces were formed and delegated specific tasks so that they may be performed more effectively.
We faced two emergency issues at that time. The first was we needed to construct reception centre and transit centres for people who fled across the border. Secondly, we needed to reap the abandoned rice fields in time, as they were already ripe.
Which is why we formed the Construction and Infrastructure Task Force quickly to construct the Taung Pyo Let We Reception Center and Hla Pho Kaung Transit Center. Myanmar’s construction businesses participated enthusiastically and we swiftly performed land clearing tasks and construction processes.
We were short on staff and materials but we persevered to complete everything on time. We gathered the cooperation of local businesses as well. Given the gravity of the situation, we could not prioritize all protocol or schedules and handled the situation as an emergency.
U Chit Khaing led the efforts to reap the crops in time. At the same time, Asia World Chairman U Tun Myint Naing took responsibility for the large-scale repairs on the Sittway-Maungtaw Road. We were aided in our efforts by 30 construction companies in Sittway.

Not everything was
a success
The UEHRD has changed gradually over the course of two years. Once consisting of only four members, it has grown to include eleven more with representatives from various ministries too. A new task force for international relations was also set up and is led by Daw Pyone Kathi Naing and the Outreach Working Group (OWG) was formed for various supporting tasks. We tried to operate UEHRD’s tasks efficiently.
As I listened to the State Counsellor’s speech on the UEHRD’s 2nd anniversary, I contemplated on the journey we had taken thus far. While we had our fair share of accomplishments, we also couldn’t find success in certain areas. There were many lessons learnt.
We need to extend our gratitude to those who deserve it. Many businesses graciously accepted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s request for assistance and many of members paid out of their own pockets while performing their duties. I can guarantee there were no back-and-forth deals made like in the days of the past. Everyone volunteered their time and money.
Of the ten task forces, some performed prominent tasks but others were less obvious. There is no reason to assert blame for not performing well. We had to give our all and accept if there were no successes. We need to rethink what preparations to make to perform it well.
When we talk about UEHRD, we need to be able to differentiate between the committee and task force. The committee acts as the administration mechanism and sets policies and coordinates negotiations as necessary. The task forces, on the other hand, are working for the benefit of the nation by their own volition and compassion. That’s why their efforts can’t be viewed as part of the administrative mechanism.
When reviewing the two-year journey of the UEHRD, we can separate them into two parts -UE and HRD. UE stands for Union Enterprise and there is meaning to each word. Union indicates the level of work that we are carrying out.
Enterprise can mean business, but here it denotes innovation and leadership. In a way, it indicates the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the government and the people. Now, the UE has three tasks, namely Humanitarian, Resettlement, and Development tasks. All three tasks are interrelated.

A group to fill in the
We have to acknowledge that relevant government ministries are taking responsibility for each of the three duties mentioned above in Rakhine State, while the local cabinet is doing so as well. That is why the UEHRD can be thought of as filling in the work where needed.
We are not taking on all the duties by ourselves, but rather we are providing our expertise in the areas they are most beneficial. Members of the UEHRD were able to explain of our processes and progress on visits to foreign nations during the two-year journey.
The various conflicts in Rakhine State can trace their roots back to years of issues present in the area. There are a lot of complications and difficulties, and a general loss of trust in the community.
When the activities of the AA began in the early part of 2019, we received greater challenges in our efforts. The UEHRD was affected as well. A fundamental aspect of the conflicts in Rakhine is economical in nature. If we can implement sufficient development, then we can deal with the conflicts in a way.
That is why we endeavoured to attract foreign investment into Rakhine State during our two-year journey. During the expo held in Ngapali Beach, we successfully signed an MoU with Thai-based IBERD and organized training courses for prawn-breeding.
We are currently implementing an electrification project and organizing to construct a warehouse freezer. We have signed an MoU with a Korean company to construct a textile factory as well. We will also open a hotel and hospitality training centre in MraukU.

What to expect in the
third year
A little while ago, I met with Rakhine businesses in Sittway and discussed transforming Maungtaw into a border trade centre. While the conflicts are indeed ongoing, trading had never stopped in the area. Buying and selling continue to take place. We can see that there is no adverse effect on bilateral trade and we need to give all our support to this matter.
While attending the second year anniversary, I also think ahead to what I can report about or uncover in another year’s time. We need to carry our obligation to the three tasks even further than we currently have. We need to cut back on unnecessary administrative functions and encourage innovation.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi always mentions that we should incorporate consideration for all other states and regions of the nation when we talk about the UEHRD and not just solely for Rakhine State.
That is why the experience and expertise we are accumulating with the UEHRD in Rakhine State will be most useful when we apply it to other states and regions. The truth is, UEHRD is a national movement and every citizen needs to extend their support when the time calls for action. I hope they will cooperate with us wholeheartedly.

Translated by Pen Dali

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