Mentioning Myitsone is bound to remind the majority of people of the hydropower project. The truth is there are different perspectives and comments on this matter. Many different sides have rejected it and are still against it. Everyone is seeing things from their point of view and making decisions and assumptions accordingly. Here, I will not be talking about the project but rather my experience of actually visiting Myitsone. I visited Myitkyina once about four years ago. I wanted to go to Myitsone but I didn’t had the time. But this time I decided to go there by any means. My wife wanted to visit it as eagerly as well.
Kachin economic forum
My trip to Myitkyina was to attend the economic forum organized by the Kachin Ethnic Entrepreneurs Association. The organizers had gone out of their way to invite me, especially U Min Banyar San. I have known him for a long time. I have advised him on his businesses a few times and done seminars in Singapore and Cambodia. I’m also close with his family. I accompanied him to the home of UMFCCI’s U Aye Win two years ago.
They told of a wish to form an organization for ethnic entrepreneurs. I liked the idea and wanted to help in any way I could. That’s why it was submitted to UMFCCI Chairman U Zaw Min Win. With his permission, the UMFCCI submitted it to the central executive committee. The Myanmar Ethnic Entrepreneurs Association was finally established later and it now has branches for every ethnic race. I am pleased to have been part of its formation process.
The event in Myitkyina was organized by the Kachin Ethnic Entrepreneurs Association. All the associations working across the nation gathered there. The event was grand. The two of us went from Yangon to Mandalay to Myitkyina by plane and it took two hours. There was a welcoming ceremony at the airport and it was for Vice President U Henry Van Thio and the delegation of ministers coming from Nay Pyi Taw.
We were taken to our hotel by U Kar Li, a Kachin entrepreneur working in the jade business in Hpakhant. He was helping with the event. We rested for a bit in the hotel and when we went down to attend the dinner reception, we met with the ethnic ministers. I am close with them. There are ethnic affairs ministers in all the states and regions and I meet with them from time to time. They were glad to see me.
We arrived at the location for the dinner reception. It was a huge hall. We arrived at the grounds that had the Manaw structure in it. Soon, the Vice President, Union Ministers, Deputy Ministers and other officials arrived. Speeches were delivered, gifts conferred and the entertainment was interesting. The different traditional ethnic costumes never ceased to amaze. The food was also unique. They treated us to Kachin cuisine.
Sustainable development for Kachin State
The Vice President inaugurated the event the next morning by cutting ceremonial ribbons. He delivered a speech and I made my prepared talk after the opening ceremony. The truth is Kachin State is abundant with natural resources. It is globally renowned for its jade and its snow-capped mountains attract many tourists. Kachin State also borders China and India. Despite these advantages, Kachin State is still overwhelmed with armed conflicts and the use of illegal drugs is rampant among the younger generation.
In my talk, I included the topic of sustainable development. I said that when we talk about development we shouldn’t measure it with just an economic ruler. We should also use social, health, education, and political measurements. I emphasized on Business for Peace (B4P) and urged businesses and entrepreneurs to be involved in the peace process.
I did not meant for them to participate in political dialogue but told them about some basic principles to adhere to when conducting about their business. The first is to protect human rights, second is to protect and develop staff, third is to preserve the environment, and the last one is to avoid bribery and corruption.
Entrepreneurs work in a critically important sector. They are partially responsible for creating employment and can indirectly aid in national development. The basic business in Kachin State is jade and entrepreneurs would do well to adhere to the four principles mentioned earlier. Doing so endorses regional stability and development.
The gathered audience were quite interested with what I said. I wanted there to be a Q&A session afterwards but it wasn’t included in the original programme so it never took place. I wanted to cultivate a habit of asking and answering questions. Our current culture has no discussions, debates or questions asked back and forth after a lecture. It just ends after the person on stage has finished saying whatever they wanted to.
There is no is mutual channel of communication. It is all one-sided. I couldn’t immediately think of why this happened but I remembered that it all began in the classroom. There is no communication there either.
Give and take
After my duties were done, I went around observing the exhibitions. There were many regional products on display, including food and clothing, and on international traveler industry. It was admirable seeing young people in charge of the exhibitions. The future has to be taken care of by them.
The two of us were taken to Myitsone by U Kar Li and his wife. The roads were good and the journey was only 25 miles long. We were greeted with a truly interesting sight at the confluence of the rivers. We could see the Maykha, Malikha and Irrawaddy rivers all in one place. Not long after we got there, the ethnic affairs ministers arrived as well. All of us toured the three rivers on a motor boat.
It was beyond tranquil but the sad thing was the sight of plastic bottles floating along them. The dangers of plastic have extended to Myitsone.
We had grilled fish at a restaurant opened near the confluence. They were fresh and delicious. But the restaurants should be organized better but it was thankful that they managed to do the best they could. I experienced a plethora of feelings while gazing at the confluence and so many thoughts not just about Kachin State but the entire country flowed through my head.
Achieving peace should be the first priority. We must build trust between each person and each side and try to gain understanding of one another. I am reminded of the phrase ‘give and take’ here. They have the same meaning and both Myanmar and English. You have to give first before you can take. There is no ‘take and give’. You have ‘give’ first so that you can ‘take’ what you want. I want everyone to be aware of this. The most important thing in life is giving.
(Translated by Pen Dali)