Interview with Myanmar delegate students at the 8th Model ASEM
The 8th Model ASEM was held in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw from November 15 to 21, bringing together some 150 young participants from 51 European countries. We interviewed Maung Phyo Thura Htay, final year student in Chemical Engineering from Yangon Technological University; Ma Yae Taing Sein, second year student in International Affairs from Yangon University; and Ma Byat Par Lain, second year student in History from Hakha College.
Q: Can you tell us about how you came to learn about the 8th Model ASEM?
Maung Phyo Thura Htay: The ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) model is a great opportunity for young people to step into the shoes of their country’s leader and discuss important issues. It is organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation, and Myanmar’s Ministry of Education co-sponsored it. I applied for the programme online. They asked questions about our participation in extra-curricular activities and what we would ask the leaders of other countries. We filled out all the questions and submitted the form.
Ma Yae Taing Sein: I found out about the programme from my school and applied for it online.
Ma Byat Par Lain: I think they prioritised selecting students from ethnic groups for this programme. My school selected the students to participate in the programme, so I did not need to apply for it online.
Q: Did you have to make any preparations for the ASEM meeting?
Mg Phyo: The Asia-Europe Foundation conducted a four-week online course for the chosen participants. We had to write assignments on the status of a selected country’s sectors, such as education, business and healthcare, as well as their foreign policy. I represented Austria, and I had to do research about the country from the internet.
Ma Yae: I had to represent Sweden, so I researched Sweden’s foreign policies. I was assigned the theme ‘Sustainable Development’, so I had to conduct research on what Sweden was doing to abolish poverty.
Ma Byat Par Lain: I had to represent France, so I researched their social, business and education sectors, and their efforts to reduce poverty.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your time at the programme.
Mg Phyo: I took the place of Austria’s foreign affairs minister in the foreign ministers’ meeting. I also took part in a workshop where we discussed how to develop IT communications between Asia and Europe.
Ma Yae: I spoke as Sweden’s representative and made a three-point presentation on how to reduce poverty. The three points were equality and reduction of all types of poverty, policy coherence in all the related territories, and partnership between all the ASEM countries.
Ma Byat Par Lain: I spoke about unequal job opportunities and better healthcare in France.
Q: Were there any awards at the meeting, and what difficulties did you face?
Mg Phyo: I received the best delegate award from Asia. All the participating students voted to determine the recipients of the awards. There were two recipients from Asia, including me, and the other person was from Singapore. As I am an engineering student, I had difficulties gathering knowledge about the political and economic sectors.
Three weeks before the meeting, I received training from my teachers at the university and officials from the Foreign Ministry about the current situation in Myanmar, and on how to speak and behave with diplomats. I now have the opportunity to participate in the next Model ASEM in Ireland.
Ma Yae: I was selected to be one of the four students to give an intervention speech at the 13th ASEM. My greatest challenge was trying to stay within the framework of the country I was representing.
Ma Byat Par Lain: I received the best delegation award for representing France. Although I researched about France, I still did not have sufficient knowledge about the country.
Q: Were you invited to the 9th Model ASEM?
Mg Phyo: The 9th Model ASEM will be held in Europe. I participated in these dialogues from a technological perspective, and discussed how it can help the socio-political sector during the discussions. A lot of countries are also showing increased interest in Myanmar.
Ma Yae: My advice for the participants of the next Model ASEM in Spain is that this programme will open up many roads and opportunities for you. I had a chance to view my own country from the perspective of a developed country.
I also made a lot of international friends. This programme will be a huge help to your community and society. I had a lot of experiences meeting with foreign students and delegates.
Ma Byat Par Lain: I want to encourage Myanmar students to apply for the next meeting in Spain. You will receive a lot of experience, as well as knowledge about other countries.
By Nandar Win &
Win Win Maw