Stop complaining and compete, says businessman Asad Jumabhoy


SINGAPORE: Entrepreneur Asad Jumabhoy is a member of the once-powerful Jumabhoy family whose name is synonymous with Scotts Holdings, one of Singapore’s pioneer property giants. Years of family feuds including one between Asad’s brothers weakened the family business and by the late 1990s, Asad decided to go his own way.

One of the first things he started as CEO of his Scotts Group was Asia Tax Free Shopping, a GST tax refund platform. Over the years, he’s been able to adapt and zero in on opportunities. 

His latest project is UTU, a cross-border loyalty and reward points platform for consumers – a project he is working on with his son.

He goes “On the Record” with Bharati Jagdish about this, about staying competitive, and how he feels about the problems that plagued the Jumabhoy family business. But first, whether he felt a sense of apprehension in stepping out of his family business to go his own way.  

Asad Jumabhoy: I come from a long line of entrepreneurs going back several hundred years, so my ancestors started out by taking sailing ships across from India to the Middle East. My grandfather came to Singapore and started with nothing. My dad started his business with his brothers with nothing. So, it was kind of par for the course really. I didn’t think twice about going out to start on my own because we’ve been doing this for a long, long time. 

Bharati: We’ll talk more about the issues that plagued your family later, but first, you’ve said in a previous interview that your wife lent you S$250,000 to start up. Why was it that you had not a dime in your pocket and she had to step in here? 

Jumabhoy: Well, it wasn’t “stepping in”. It was the way our families are structured. You work for the family and the family saved for you. I stepped out and I wanted to go my own way, so I kind of took the “go your own way” direction.

I really started bootstrapping the operation. It was kind of a good strategy. Well, it wasn’t really a strategy. It was more of a coincidence as well, but on the one hand it makes you accountable to somebody as opposed to pulling it out of your piggy bank and blowing it and have nobody to answer to.

So I had this family I had to answer to. I had my wife, my kids to support, so you’re very focused and you think, “Okay, how best do I use this opportunity?” 

Bharati: Did you always know that this was what you wanted to do – go into business? 

Jumabhoy: Oh, from a very young age. I think I remember talking to one of my siblings as we went to pick up my mom. I must have been about nine or 10. And I said even if I have a newspaper shop, I want it to be my newspaper shop. And it wasn’t a question of making money or not making money. It was having the freedom to choose, to paint the picture the way you wanted to paint it, to do the things you wanted to do. 

ATTRACTING AND RETAINING TALENT IN A FAMILY BUSINESS  

Bharati: What or who has shaped your business philosophy over the years? 

Jumabhoy: Lots of things. You start with your parents. My mother prepared us to pick up the skills we needed to deal with life. My father taught me that no hill was too big to climb and to try. And between those two big guiding lights, I studied in the US and I kind of got adopted by an American family.

He was a businessman who started with absolutely nothing as an insurance salesman and ended up a huge owner of insurance companies and I learnt a lot from him. I used to go with him to the office when I was in the States, so I learnt a lot about corporatised businesses and then I came in to my own family business and I started to understand how you deal with relationships that were close to you and how you had to understand how to attract talent and retain talent. Because you’re family business, you have as good or an even better chance at attracting better talent.

A lot of people turn around and say, “Sorry there’s a glass ceiling. There’s this and there’s that.” It’s really a question of attitude because take this business we’re running right now: there’s an Asian angle. There’s a European angle. There’s an angle in the US. Maybe I would really look forward to having some of the junior people go out to Europe from Singapore and run the business there and I don’t mean my young son. I’ve got other young people working in the group that are very talented. 

Bharati: But one might say there’s a glass ceiling for outsiders in a family business. How do you ensure that people get the message that is not the way you work? 

Jumabhoy: Look at some of the large companies in the world. IBM was a family business. Coca Cola was a family business. Mars was a family business. Cargill is still a family business. All these businesses have demonstrated that there are ways in which you can cross from small businesses to big businesses, how you cross from startups to professionalisation and I think professionalisation is really a frame of mind as opposed to a degree that you earn somewhere.

If you’re mentally organized to understand and respect other people’s contribution to the firm, why should there be any difference? I’m also a firm believer in paying for talent and paying for performance. So whether that person is your family member or not, frankly speaking, is irrelevant. 

Bharati: So aside from paying for talent and performance, what are the other strategies you use to attract and retain the best from outside your family? 

Jumabhoy: Well, at this stage, there are different things you need at different stages. At this stage, we’ve just commenced our business after a couple of years of R&D. So it’s really finding people with high energy, high integrity, the ability to be flexible, etc. Having knowledge in areas that you need and also people who know they don’t know everything and where to go to get what they don’t know.

And as the company matures as I’ve seen my other past businesses mature, you start bringing in the specialists because you can then afford to bring them on board today full-time because there’s just that much more to do.

For me, I’m looking to provide people with opportunity, help people develop themselves, people who enjoy teamwork, collaboration. I think these are very important ingredients in the mix that you put to attract and retain talent. They’re not the only ingredients but these are some of the things that come to the top of my mind.  

SPORT TEACHES YOU INNOVATION

Bharati: Tell me more about your latest project – UTU. Describe the genesis of the idea. 

Jumabhoy: When I was in the tax refund business, I presented a paper about 20 years ago in Morocco to an entire management group. So there must have been about 50-60 people there if my memory serves me right. And it was really about engaging your customer and being a part of their lives and in the tax refund business, you pretty much have a touch point with your customer when they’re traveling on a business trip or vacation or shopping overseas or whatever.

But it’s always for that finite period of time and I’ve always had the belief that every tourist is actually a local and every local is actually a tourist. It’s just a question of where they are and when they are there and what they’re doing. So if you take a look at our rewards and loyalty platform, it follows the tourist or the local from the time they wake up to the time they sleep. So you’re a part of their lives all the time if they want you to be and we’re completely non-intrusive.

We’re very much user-centric so you can redeem your rewards from a retailer anywhere, in any country and there are no limitations. So if we go back to where this all started, it was 10 years ago when I wrote that paper about engaging customers, and frankly speaking there were two things that were missing in 2006.

Firstly, electronics, computers and W-Fi as we know it today. The tools that we have today were not there. No smartphones. So that was one missing ingredient. The second missing ingredient was that I was in the VAT refund business and we went through a series of private equity investors.

And the lesson I learnt was that they had a finite time horizon. They all say there is no finite time horizon, but there is one – preferably between 3-5 years because if you start looking at internal rates of return and duration, it starts falling off a cliff after a certain time unless you have those exceptional supernova opportunities that you can count on that. So the desire to actually create, I found, was not there.

We launched another product which is prevalent today called the dynamic currency converter where you use your credit card overseas and you pay in your home currency. When I tried to introduce that, I remember going to my board in 2000. To get investment funds, I had to make 12-15 presentations, the same presentations mind you.

Every time we went with an update, we had to repeat it three times over. It was the same guy. At first I thought he didn’t get it, but he got it all right. The problem was he was trying to evaluate if he wanted to deviate from the plot at all. His idea was, let’s harvest this business and then get out of here. So the long-term component was missing. 

Bharati: Because you were introducing ideas that were ahead of their time?  

Jumabhoy: No, I just think that they’re different and business as usual is business as usual. That’s why you see so many companies that have come up and have taken the space of companies that were in the market. It’s kind of difficult to change.

I mean if you’ve been doing the same thing so well for 40 years… go back to rubber tyre, wagon wheel concept. “Rubber tyre? No way. That’s not going to survive!” And of course everyone moved away from wagon wheel. I think history is littered with those stories. So I’m thinking that’s just part of the evolution. 

Bharati: While you encounter individuals like these who’ve done things a certain way for 40 years and don’t want to change, where do you get that desire or the guts to change, to come up with new ideas that might be difficult for others to accept? 

Jumabhoy: I think there are several stages. I think one is that you want to be relevant and markets change, people change, demands change, needs change. So to be relevant, you have to innovate. 

Bharati: Conceptually, we all know this but some people take the steps to change and others don’t. So, what makes you? 

Jumabhoy: I innovate because I have to feed my family. I don’t want to lose my job! I’ve got kids to feed so I’ve got to innovate and change. I think we should just look at things as they are and think about what you can contribute today? You woke up today. What are you going to do with the day? Do something useful.

It is all mindset because age helps in the fact that you’ve got experience and you know some of the things not to walk away from. It helps you that way. So the experience does help. But I just feel, I woke up this morning and what am I going to do today that is useful? And when I go home every night, before I go to bed I ask myself, “What did I actually do today? Pass? Fail?” 

Bharati: What is your measure of “pass”? 

Jumabhoy: I’ve never been asked that before. Well, my measure of “pass”, on a daily basis is: Did I get closer to the objective that we wanted to go? Did I put another brick in the wall? If I did, it means I’m building towards the strategy and then the other one is how did I relate to people today? Each of us has our pressures in the day and the idea is that I just want to be remembered as somebody who listened to somebody else. 

Bharati: You might have the mindset to innovate, but how do you mobilise others to do the same? 

Jumabhoy: Play more sport. 

Bharati: Polo is your favourite 

Jumabhoy: I think through sport, you learn so much. The biggest one is team sport. So whether you talk about polo or football, the thing about playing with another person is I hit the ball from here to there and I may have not have kicked it just right and you might not have been in the right spot. So you’re adjusting and I’ve got to adjust.

And if I see a space I pass it there and the competitor can see the same spot. So, I’ve got to put it in a spot where I think you can get to it before your competitor. So I’ve got to know something about you as well as the teammate. And then we’ve got to adjust.

We’ve got to read each other’s mind and that’s the whole thing about starting a business and innovating and all that. It’s the same thing. It’s a question of adjusting and adjusting, getting your plan right, testing, being rigorous, training, preparing. All those things are common with sport. So I think sports is a great way to get into innovation for the younger folk.

I guess everybody has eureka moments when it comes to innovation and they’re working on a problem and you say, “Wait a minute. I think I’ve found a solution. But when you’re looking for big moves, for me at least, it comes out of having done a lot of research in the area, then looking around and seeing what tools are available, what talents are available, how can we pull this together, what ingredients do we need to bake this one? 

SINGAPORE NEEDS FOREIGN LABOUR

Bharati: Retailers today are facing a lot of difficulties, especially brick-and-mortar businesses in Singapore. What’s your advice for them, or some strategies that you think could work sector-wide? 

Jumabhoy: If you look at retail, I ran stores for many years so I know a fair bit. A lot of it has to do with pricing policy around the world. You find different brands priced differently across the world, so that’s one big thing. And then there are component costs as well.

So whether you look at manpower, rentals, utilities and cost of goods. And the biggest item normally is cost of goods. Retailers promote, STB promotes and those are all good things but maybe some of the structural issues need to be looked at such as labour and the quality of service.

I go to restaurants in Singapore and when I say that I’m talking as a local but also taking into account the fact that I travel a lot, and there’s just not the body count in the restaurant to cover the level of service. These kids are working hard and they’re knocking themselves out and they’re trying to serve so many people. There’s just not the body count so it’s difficult. 

Bharati: That’s why now there’s a lot of talk about automation. But do you think that truly is the way to go? 

Jumabhoy: How are you going to automate serving a plate on my table? 

Bharati: Well that might be possible with robotics and self-service and now, we’re even seeing food vending machines. 

Jumabhoy: So now you’re starting to say, “Okay I’ll accept a different quality of service.”

Bharati: If not that, then what do you think the solution is? 

Jumabhoy: There’s the question about how you do part-time, full-time crossovers in the management of staff. If you go to a lot of American restaurants, there’s a culture of university students who would be serving at restaurants, making extra pocket money. 

Bharati: Of course one of the biggest issues is that there are not enough Singaporeans who want to do the job because it’s not prestigious and there’s not enough money in it. The government has also put curbs on foreign labour, so that’s causing things to get even worse.

Jumabhoy: Well, I’d say the macro picture, I’m trusting in my leaders to take care of for me. But I think looking at the micro issues, automation is only one part of the story and there are lots of great tools that have come in today like restaurant booking tools and things like that.

But I went to a local noodle restaurant that tried to automate the ordering process and it just became like factory-produced. And I’ve stopped going there because the experience was gone and restaurants are very experiential.

Shopping also, because it’s not a question of shopping online or shopping in brick-and-mortar set-ups. I will do both if there’s value in each. So I think they’ve got to look at the structure of industry. I think we’ve got to look at quality of service. 

Bharati: Of course many retailers would say, these are things beyond our control as there are curbs on foreign labour, rentals are high and so on. How to work within those constraints?Jumabhoy: I went to Dubai and, there’s no shortage of labour there. But it’s not immigration. It’s people who come and work for a few years and then go home. What’s wrong with that? So it’s not an immigration issue. It’s saying, “okay, let’s have some diversity and pull people from all over the world. Similarly, we need foreign labour. 

Bharati: So you think that our government should loosen curbs on foreign manpower? 

Jumabhoy: I think the government sees a lot more factors than we do. I’ve sat on both sides of the fence because I did a lot of work at Ministry of Health Holdings. I sat on the board there and I sat on the board of IDA, and you see a lot of problems from different perspectives and the government’s perspective is equally valid except that you don’t see it when you’re running a shop day-to-day. They are addressing many different agendas which are equally valid.

The question is, you’ve got to make a call to say what kind of experience we want to deliver? As a country, as a people, as a service culture, as a retail culture, as a tourist culture, what is it we want to deliver and is that what the market wants to buy? And I think by going through these areas, policies, it’s a question of trying to triangulate and finding a way forward.

As a country, we, the government and the people, should ask ourselves what is the image we want to portray to the world. Do we want to portray high-touch, high-quality service delivery levels?

We’re going to need help because we don’t have enough people. We’re also telling our people to go get an education and uplift your skills level. That’s great. But you still got to have somebody clean the bathroom.  

Bharati: Of course if there weren’t a lot of political pressure, or at least if infrastructure had been built ahead of time to accommodate a larger number of people in Singapore, there wouldn’t have been such a rejection of an increase in foreign labour to begin with.

So it’s a lot of factors that have led to this policy including the birth rate etc. and a lot of factors that have led to the rejection of the policy as well including the fact that Singaporeans perceived foreigners as taking away white-collar jobs, jobs that we actually want to do. We should note the government is taking steps to address this. 

 

STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT FOREIGNERS AND COMPETE 

Jumabhoy: I think it has to do with education and skills level. If you turn around and say, “I’m as good as the foreigner that comes in. I’m probably better-educated. I’m happy to compete.” it’s fine.

It’s a question of getting our local men and women to say the same thing. You’re good enough to compete, so compete. Stop complaining. Let anybody come. You want to work or you don’t want to work? You want to work hard or you don’t want to work hard? You want to get somewhere in this world or you don’t? It’s up to you.

Don’t come and tell me foreign guys came in and took my job. Improve your skills. I see so many kids today come from every kind of background, well-of backgrounds and not well-off backgrounds. They’re knocking themselves out learning. It’s really a question on how much you’re willing to put out and how hard you’re willing to work. 

Bharati: Of course some might say no matter how hard I work, I’ll never really be able to compete because the foreigner doesn’t have to deal with the high cost of living that I do and therefore is willing to accept a lower salary than me, so he becomes a more attractive employee.  

Jumabhoy: That’s market practice. Every time you interfere with market pricing, you end up in a mess. It’s not just Singapore, every country. If you put currency controls for example, you’ll get a problem somewhere else. All these things are interconnected. It’s been proven and it’s very painful to prove, but the market economy is a good allocator of resources. 

If you have a feeling that your talent is worth more than what you’re being paid, go do something else. Go start your own business. If the market is saying, “Asad, I’m not willing to pay you so much for this job.” then I have two choices: either I change my job and change my focus or I stick with this and accept my position. 

FAMILY FEUDS AND LESSONS LEARNT

Bharati: Over the years, I’m sure you’ve made mistakes. What are the ones that stand out for you and the lessons you learnt from them? 

Jumabhoy: Well, it was probably over 20 years ago in my original family business where I learnt the pitfalls of family businesses. As a result, I’m very careful now about how I structure my businesses because of my past family history.

I make sure I structure my businesses to be as fair as possible to as many people as possible.  In traditional Asian families where it is the question of “because you are younger than me, you have to listen to me.” Okay fine, so I’ll listen to you out of respect and love, but when it comes to business judgement etc. you’ve got to take the business issue and that wasn’t always the case. 

Bharati: You are doing your current business with your son actually? 

Jumabhoy: Yes, he joined me. 

Bharati: How do you apply what you’ve learnt to how you manage him? 

Jumabhoy: The same plus can be a minus as well. So we can solve a lot of issues around the dinner table but you also get put on the spot around the dinner table. The issues tend to be how people perceive you and how people try to make things different. All I’m asking for is to be treated the same as anybody else and that’s all my son is asking for as well.

So, it’s really more people’s perception of you as opposed to your perception of yourself or your relationship with your son. As management science itself has progressed, as people like me went to management school, today my son’s in management school, my other son is learning to become a lawyer, you start to pick up a certain sense of corporate professionalism so you can take the best of that.

And then you can take the best out of entrepreneurship and you can blend it. So you have all the governance and the right structures and the right ways of doing things and at the same time, you’re not over- bureaucratic whereas at the same time, you’re also infuse a spark of entrepreneurship into the mix. 

Bharati: So in a nutshell, the lessons learnt that you apply in business today? 

Jumabhoy: Everything I learnt in the sandbox: don’t throw sand in people’s face, wash your hands before you eat – all those good behaviors that any corporation would have. I think the biggest lesson I’ve taken is that when you’re dealing or working with family and you feel you can actually lean on them because you have a second relationship – don’t do that.

Treat them with the same respect and care as you would treat any professional working in the firm because they are professionals and they deserve that. 

Bharati: The disputes in your family’s past business were a very public issue in the 90s. How did you feel when all of that was happening? 

Jumabhoy: Even today, if I’m faced with a situation where people want to fight, I’ll say, “You wanna fight? Great. You two guys fight. I’m gone.” I’ll try to help you sort your problem out, but don’t expect me to get drawn in. 

There are only 24 hours in a day. I don’t like to fight. I don’t fight with anybody. That’s a better way to live life. I find a way around to avoid conflict and if people are entrenched in conflict situations, try and help them out if you can but if you can’t, move on.  

Bharati: What do you regret the most in your life so far?  

Jumabhoy: It’s a journey and I wish I could be working with my brothers again because I love working with my sons. 

Bharati: What do you miss the most about working with your brothers? 

Jumabhoy: Just the camaraderie, and just sort of the hanging out.  

Bharati: It wasn’t all rosy though.  

Jumabhoy: Well, I tend not to remember the pain points so much. My wife tells me I’m the eternal optimist and maybe I am. I don’t remember the pain. I don’t remember the time when I entered the army and I was paralyzed for three months because I had a slipped disc in my neck.

I don’t remember things like that. I remember it as what wonderful discipline that I, an undisciplined person, received when I went to the army. At least for me, take the best of what you can and leave the rest behind.  

In terms of regrets on the professional side, I’m wondering had I worked outside of my family business for a period of 4-5 years, whether that would have helped me or not. I’m not sure. I ended up picking up a lot of those skills by building a large business with partners. So I learnt from doing in my own shop, rather than picking it up outside.

I also miss working with my dad but now he’s 90 so he doesn’t work anymore. 

Bharati: He inspired you a great deal. 

Jumabhoy: My dad did and my late mother did, as I mentioned earlier. 

NEVER STOP LEARNING AND TRYING 

Bharati: What’s the most important lesson you think you learnt from your dad?

Jumabhoy: Try. 

Bharati: And if you fail? 

Jumabhoy: Try again. And from my mother, it was: if you’re going to try, at least use your brain and get yourself ready. Have what it takes to take the next step. But sure, you’re going to succeed at some things and fail at others. 

Bharati: Do you think we, in Singapore, need to improve our culture when it comes to accepting failure? 

Jumabhoy: I would say we need to change our attitude towards success and failure.If people fail, it’s not because they’re not doing the right thing. I hired a guy in our technology team who actually tried to build a loyalty system in his country and failed. In his case, it was that the business strategy was not robust.

So we felt that we had the business strategy but then he had certain customer-facing technological know-how which I thought would be useful to our business and it’s proved correct. It may not have worked for him in his case, but with a little bit of shaping, a larger team and having a more rounded approach with different skill-sets etc. the gentleman is a success. 

Bharati: So how do you think we can develop a culture here of being more accepting of failure? 

Jumabhoy: Start with bankruptcy laws and work your way from there.  The US has a very good approach to it. From my understanding, if your company goes into chapter 11, you either reorganize and start again or the individual can go start again. If it’s a failed effort, it’s a failed effort, move on. If the guy stole the money it’s a different issue altogether but if it’s a business issue and it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. But never stop learning and trying. Try, try, try again. 



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How Myanmar’s art scene is reinventing alone


SINGAPORE: For filmmaker Midi Z, it was a night time to remember.

The 33-yr-aged Myanmar-born Taiwanese director was now known for critically acclaimed films this sort of as Return To Burma and Ice Poison. But right until previous month, he experienced not been capable to present any of his movies in his dwelling state.

So when his most up-to-date effort, The Street To Mandalay, was screened at the Memory! Worldwide Heritage Movie Festival in Yangon on Nov seven, Midi Z, who experienced left the state at the age of 16 to study in Taiwan, was very thrilled.

“I was there and I felt quite anxious but thrilled, simply because I seriously cared about the reactions of people from my dwelling state,” recalled the director, who was just lately in town for the Singapore Worldwide Movie Festival.

(A however from Midi Z’s The Street To Mandalay. Image: The Street To Mandalay) 

The Golden Horse-nominated film about two unlawful immigrants from Myanmar who sneak into Thailand to get the job done in a manufacturing unit struck a chord among the the viewers, he explained to Channel NewsAsia.

“During the Q&A, two journalists ended up crying, simply because thirty many years ago, a person of them noted about the same difficulty (talked about in the film), and was place in jail for 5 many years,” he mentioned.

“They weren’t crying simply because the film was fantastic or touching but simply because they realised matters are shifting. Whilst the film expressed a darker aspect of the state, it was allowed to be shown.”

Myanmar-born Taiwanese filmmaker Midi Z. (Image: Singapore Worldwide Movie Festival)

A Article-CENSORSHIP SCENE

The prosperous, and some say historic, community screening of The Street To Mandalay was in distinction to how he manufactured his initial aspect film again in 2011.

Swept up by the optimism of Myanmar’s common elections the yr prior to, he experienced made the decision to return to his hometown of Lashio to shoot the film Return To Burma. But again then, he experienced to do it in secret.

Factors have improved. “Since March, we don’t need any much more permission to shoot. You can use your camera to shoot what you want,” he mentioned.

Midi Z’s initial aspect film, Return To Burma, was shot in secret in his hometown of Lashio. (Image: Return To Burma)

As Myanmar proceeds to open up to the environment, the earlier few many years have viewed its artists altering to the country’s rather much more liberal setting.

It hasn’t been absolutely sleek-sailing, even though, as they experience difficulties and concerns ranging from freedom of expression to coping with economic hurdles.

When it arrives to the former, nevertheless, artists and observers that Channel NewsAsia spoke to agreed that matters are shifting for the greater.

“Compared to the earlier few many years, it is significantly freer currently to make any sort of inventive expression. Censorship has been lifted and it has enhanced problems to a selected extent,” reckoned Maung Working day, a poet-writer and a person-time effectiveness artist, who was just lately in town for the Singapore Writers Festival.

It is an feeling echoed by modern artist Htein Lin, who was a political prisoner beneath the military routine from 1998 to 2004.

“There is much more freedom of expression, much more prospect to do political commentary and significantly less official censorship,” he mentioned.

Htein Lin’s installation Soap Blocked at the Singapore Biennale. (Image: Mayo Martin)

Just one of his performs that seems to be again to individuals many years can be viewed at the Singapore Biennale – an installation featuring hundreds of soap blocks in the form of Myanmar, which alludes to the time he experienced carved a figure inside of a block of soap although in jail.

The modifications can also be viewed in the subtlest means, mentioned Marie-Pierre Mol, the co-founder of Intersections, a Singapore-centered gallery that specialises in Myanmar art.

An avid follower of modern Myanmar art, she has carried out ten demonstrates and visited the state fifteen instances. For the earlier few many years, she famous, there has been an explosion of paintings that commonly wouldn’t have been viewed many years ago, simply because these highlighted aspects that ended up beforehand frowned upon by military authorities.

Among these are the existence of photographs from the professional-democracy protests in 1988, as properly as the use of the colour red.

“Even colour was political again then,” she mentioned, pointing out that utilizing red could have got artists in deep trouble.

WHEN ARTISTS Hold Again

Formally speaking, censorship is now regarded as background. But it hasn’t absolutely disappeared.

Midi Z recalled how, in the course of the screening of Street To Mandalay, the ultimate scene, which confirmed blood splattering on a Buddha impression, was crudely included – by hand.

“They made use of a hand around the projection it was quite funny,” he laughed. “But the hand was shaking so we however saw anything. I was good with that as it was the ultimate, 5-next shot, and I considered the viewers now comprehended it.”

Myanmar artist Htein Lin was a political prisoner from 1998 to 2004. (Image: Singapore Art Museum)

These kinds of cases may possibly seem to be rather amusing, but there are also occasional reports of movies currently being pulled out from festivals.

Early this yr, the film Twilight Over Burma, which tells the story of an Austrian girl who married a Shan prince, was removed from the lineup of a human rights competition for supposedly endangering nationwide reconciliation and the impression of the army.

“There are however constraints and red traces, like criticising the army or even criticising Aung San Suu Kyi,” admitted Htein Lin. “Although the democratically-elected federal government has got rid of some repressive rules, there are new ones like the 2013 Telecommunications Act, which is made use of to reduce freedom of expression.”

The act, much more popularly known in Myanmar as 66D, handles defamatory statements manufactured online and can result in imprisonment.

Just one of its much more latest circumstances associated a poet who used six months in jail just after posting a poem that supposedly stated possessing a tattoo of the president on his penis.

There also appears to be a concern among the some artists that there is an component of self-censorship rising – particularly when it arrives to tackling delicate concerns this sort of as religion, politics and the plight of ethnic minorities.

Myanmar poet Maung Working day, who also co-launched the effectiveness art competition Over and above Strain in 2008. (Image: Singapore Writers Festival)

“One matter mainly lacking in the art and literary scene are conversations on ethnic concerns,” mentioned Maung Working day, who cited this sort of conflicts in the country’s fringes that involve the Kachin, the Karen, and the Shan. As for the situation concerning the Rohingya, he described it as “complicated, very divisive and confusing”.

“I come to feel writers are keeping again what they want to say or they just don’t have a clue what is heading on,” he mentioned. “But we however have to accept the sufferings of these people.”

Several years of regimented rules concerning what is and what is not allowed is anything artists keep on to grapple with currently, even with the new freedoms currently being allowed them, mentioned artist-pair Tun Get Aung and Wah Nu.

The two have just lately completed a present at Chan Hampe Galleries and, like Htein Lin, have an installation at the moment up at the Singapore Biennale, which seems to be at the neglected heroes of pre-colonial Myanmar.

“Frankly speaking, the imaginations of our artists are trapped on individuals familiar rules and restrictions we lived with for around the earlier fifty percent-century.”

THE Value OF Currently being AN ARTIST

But although the difficulty of innovative freedom has rather monopolised conversations about Myanmar’s art scene, artists level to other important matters they offer with.

Nyein Chan Su’s In the vicinity of Sule Sq., which was carried out in 2014, highlighted aspects that would have been a no-no in the course of the military routine, this sort of as the use of the colour red and photographs of a professional-democracy rally. (Image: Intersections Gallery) 

These contain the deficiency of funding and institutional infrastructure, weak area guidance, and a deficiency of art scholarships. 

“Funding is an difficulty,” mentioned Htein Lin. “There is no meaningful condition funding or arts council. And if there ended up, these would most likely be very regular and threat averse.”

Even global organisations who have beforehand supported several cultural activities and initiatives have cut down on their guidance, mentioned Maung Working day. “Many have improved their agenda in this new political location, which type of undermines the worth and role arts enjoy in the socio-political landscape of the state.”

The swift modifications in Myanmar have brought several positives for the inventive group, but there are also rather much more simple concerns to offer with.

“They now have much more publicity much more foreigners are browsing the state, there are much more curators, vacationers, businessmen, which is fantastic. Far more artists are now invited overseas by museums, institutions, galleries, which is excellent,” mentioned Mol. “But at the same time, prices are now getting higher – it is turn out to be challenging to get fantastic elements, canvas, paint, it is all turning into expensive.”

Soe Soe’s In The Rain seven captures the uncertainty of existence in Myanmar’s up coming chapter as a nation. (Image: Intersections Gallery)

Rising expenses is a person of the complications that Midi Z at the moment faces. A few many years ago, the director made the decision to open a manufacturing studio in Yangon to help develop the film and documentary marketplace there. But he is now wondering how to maintain it.

“It’s very, very expensive. Our studio, which has 3 modifying rooms, a person business office and a person kitchen area, expenses US$5,000 a month to rent! We just cannot afford it any longer so I’m planning to move to a smaller sized location. It is quite weird in Yangon – some of the lodges are even much more expensive than in Singapore.”

Comprehension THE Up to date ARTS

As modern artists grapple with immediate bread-and-butter concerns, they are also gradually coming to conditions with their location in culture.

Although several of them are hailed overseas, it appears there is however significantly get the job done to be carried out to set up them selves at dwelling.

Artist-pair Tun Get Aung and Wah Nu, for instance, are critically acclaimed artists abroad. But in a state with this sort of a wealthy background of regular sorts, they bemoan the amount of appreciation for – or even understanding of – modern art in Myanmar, by the federal government and the community.

Artist pair Wah Nu and Tun Get Aung. (Image courtesy of the artists)

Their just lately concluded present at Chan Hampe Galleries highlighted a suite of photographs comprising mock-ups of exhibitions that they couldn’t hold in Myanmar for a person motive or one more.

In a way, it is a file of their struggles as modern artists in their state – several galleries again dwelling experienced resisted this conceptual way of performing and they experienced no way to present their exhibitions besides as photographs.

“Most of the galleries ended up not all set for our new performs. We also could not afford to show them on our have, way too,” they mentioned.

Maung Working day also remembers the difficulties it took to established up a effectiveness art competition. In 2008, he co-launched Over and above Strain, which aimed to introduce the rather new art sort to the community.

“We preferred to offer you uncomplicated and open accessibility for the common community, so we made the decision to enable the censors arrive and artists pitched their suggestions to them,” he recalled.

Tun Get Aung and Wah Nu’s Blurring The Boundaries #nine is element of a sequence of photographs of unrealised exhibitions. (Image: Tun Get Aung and Wah Nu)

“It was seriously exciting the censors did not know what effectiveness art was and did not know how to censor it so they finished up indicating ‘remove red balloons from your performance’ or ‘don’t shout in the course of the performance’. But we considered it was important to interact the censors in the competition. It was all element of difficult the status quo.”

Their prepare labored. The competition was a achievements, and it was adopted by a few much more editions prior to it went on a momentary hiatus.

Generating Art FOR THE Future

Over and above Strain is a person of several art situations that are element of a new wave of inventive activities by artists energised by the prospects in the new era.

With out a doubt, for several of the founded artists that ended up directly affected by traumatic situations of the latest earlier, it has been a time to keep on investigating Myanmar’s background. Htein Lin, for instance, has been performing on a job identified as A Present Of Fingers, the place he has been documenting the life of fellow former political prisoners.

But at the same time, he is also hectic performing on initiatives that appear at the existing and the potential, this sort of as curating My Yangon My House, an arts and heritage competition that celebrates the city, and a few much more that doc the country’s rapid modernisation.

From Tun Get Aung and Wah Nu’s The Name, an installation that seems to be at Myanmar’s neglected pre-colonial heroes, which is up at the Singapore Biennale. (Image: Mayo Martin)

Numerous artists, way too, are hunting to the potential. Tun Get Aung and Wah Nu have an ongoing sequence they phone Museum Initiatives, the place they get the job done with rising artists.

“They’re intended for individuals individuals who are not familiar with art, and at the same time, for very younger artists to have the prospect to brainstorm their suggestions,” they mentioned.

In fact, space has been opening up for more recent faces in the scene. Just one of these is filmmaker Sein Lyan Tun. Like Midi Z, he experienced also left the state as a younger male and labored abroad in Cyprus and Singapore. But in 2013, he made the decision to arrive again to try out and make a difference — by building movies that centered on education and children’s concerns.

To day, he has carried out four documentaries and two short movies that have both gained at festivals or shown on global television. His most up-to-date get the job done-in-progress is about a Buddhist nun who wishes to turn out to be a doctor.

For him, it is a probability to make the potential as a result of his art. “We’d been battling for democracy and now that we get it, the younger era has to make its potential. We have to make our have background.”

From filmmaker Sein Lyan Tun’s short film Charred Brick, which explores the difficulty of performing little ones in Myanmar. (Image: Charred Brick)

And as more recent faces arise, the up coming chapter of Myanmar’s art scene will be an exciting a person to look at, mentioned Mol. “They’ll expand up and develop their apply without having censorship, they can go overseas and learn all the various procedures and subject matter matters. I feel there will be a enormous, enormous transform, even if it is a small bit early to have an feeling about which path it will go.”

Extra Maung Working day: “Like the state alone, the art scene is in a changeover time period — in some type of reinvention phase. We will see what arrives out.”



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Historic custom of very long-neck females fades as Myanmar develops


High up on the Karen Hills, the existence of an ethnic tribe is in peril. Identified for their “giraffe females”, the Kayan in Myanmar’s distant east are having difficulties to maintain their traditions alive soon after prosperity and modernisation arrived in their group.

LOIKAW, Myanmar: The sun is environment higher than sleepy Pekon. Sections of its previous city lie submerged less than the blue drinking water that has snaked miles from Inle Lake into Kayah Point out in the south. On its glassy surface is a photograph-perfect reflection of the Shan Hills rippling gently towards the golden sky.

“Our mother was a dragon,” says a person in a grey jumper. His delicate voice has a trace of a British accent. “Some people say that to remember our dragon mother, they have the exact same kind of neck.”

Pascal Khoo Thwe is referring to an historic legend about the females of Kayan, who are known for their giraffe-like neck that appears unnaturally stretched in the clasp of brass rings. Their placing overall look has not only fascinated travelers from the world in excess of but also produced the Kayan a single of the most recognisable ethnic teams in Southeast Asia.

While the legends are generations previous, the practice faces an unsure foreseeable future. Some females have decided to abandon it, deciding on a a lot more fashionable design and style. And some that go on to use the rings do so not because of any perseverance to the custom, but for pragmatic, industrial causes as an alternative: Huge-paying travelers come to the region to take photos of very long-necked females.

Pascal is no stranger to the strange components. A Kayan himself, he grew up viewing his grandmother with brass coils gleaming close to her neck. “The rings were fourteen inches large and rose to her head as although they were supporting a pagoda stupa,” wrote the forty nine-yr-previous in his award-winning autobiography From the Land of Eco-friendly Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey.

The neck-rings have been part of an historic custom among woman customers of Kayan Lahwi, a sub-tribe of the Kayan ethnic group native to Kayah Point out. They were high priced vogue merchandise and commonly reserved for favorite daughters in every household. Today, they are a rarity.

“Only a smaller handful of the females nevertheless use them, in some sections thanks to financial strain. So the amount will be lessened substantially,” Pascal explained.

He estimates that there are now fewer than a hundred very long-neck females across the full of Myanmar, a decline from a number of a long time in the past when there were 300 to 400 in Shan and Kayah states on your own.

The gradual disappearance of the generations-previous custom is clear in Pan Pet, a distant Kayan native village of a lot more than 1,000 inhabitants. For a long time, armed conflicts and a heavy armed forces presence held it shut from the outside the house world, making it a single of the least frequented spots in the country. It was not right until 2012 that Pan Pet opened its door to people and, seemingly, new social values.

“Most children are not donning them presently because of the fashionable society.” Aged Mu Lone makes a remark about the fading society in the tribe, her very long neck glimmering in the sun.

“In my time, females weren’t lovely without the need of neck-rings. But now, they believe they seem lovely without the need of them,” explained the 88-yr-previous.

“TOO UGLY” Tradition

Quite a few myths and legends surround the historic custom. Some people say the rings are used to imprison females. Other individuals claim they are worn as self-defense from tiger bites. Extra prevalent theories issue toward splendor and prosperity.

“People have an plan that owning a very long neck is lovely and also to demonstrate off their prosperity. The for a longer period the neck, the a lot more males like them,” Pascal explained.

That seems to be no for a longer period the scenario. In Pan Pet, as the group has modernised, a lot of Kayan women have opted for a a lot more present-day design and style, with t-shirts, blouses and trousers using the position of regular costume, and a lot more discreet jewellery changing the neck rings.

The difficulty for a lot of younger females is two-fold: For starters, the influence of outside the house cultures is resulting in a rethink of what constitutes splendor. Perhaps a lot more crucial, although, is that a lot of females are not eager to place up with the pain of donning the neck rings.

A full established contains a few spiral brass rings – a single on the collarbones, an additional on the neck and the very last a single wrapped close to the base piece. Collectively, they weigh about ten kilogrammes.

“It was agonizing,” explained 23-yr-previous Muu Pley. At the age of 7, she was equipped with shiny neck-rings. 13 yrs afterwards, she took them off, partly for anxiety that her neck would expand as well very long.

“I felt so free of charge and so light-weight.”

For a lot of previous Kayan females although, their class is very well really worth the suffering.

“The rings choked me and felt as well restricted at very first. Meals would get caught when I attempted to swallow. I experienced to stretch my neck to take in. But I acquired used to it,” Mu Lone explained with a smile.

She was equipped with the rings when she was nine, just about eight a long time in the past. With support from a single of the elders, straight parts of brass were expertly coiled close to her neck, a single by a single. The full approach took several hours to complete.

Society ON Exhibit

Regardless of the pressures, the custom lives on. A constrained amount of Kayan women go on to use the neck-rings, for numerous causes. Muu Pley is a single of them.

Significantly less than a yr in the past, the mother-of-two place the rings again on her neck, generally because of a tourism boom in the village. Very long-necked females have in no way been a lot more common among people and their incomes are developing.

Dust loaded the air as a busload of travelers drove past her smaller memento shop. Its overseas passengers waved at the smaller woman and other villagers close by. They experienced snapped a number of images of her when the very long-necked woman was cradling a little one in her arms. Quite a few of them then bought bracelets, scarves and other trinkets soon after securing their perfect shot.

“I’ll go on donning the neck-rings,” Muu Pley explained softly.

THE Value OF MODERNISATION

While some females nevertheless use the rings, there are problems that the custom could be less than danger, specifically if the main driving power is industrial attain.

Pascal is fearful this could mean that the deep foundations that have sustained the practice will start off to erode: “It seems to maintain the society, but it does not maintain the spirit of the custom. It is just a type of physical overall look.”

Attempts are being produced to defend the practice. Pascal (underneath) is the nationwide expert for the Worldwide Trade Centre (ITC) – a joint agency of the United Nations and the Globe Trade Organisation – devoting his time to advertise trade chances by means of sustainable enhancement in Kayah Point out.

Element of the system is to advertise Kayan traditions in Pan Pet and use them to create revenue from tourism for the villagers, though preserving their fading society. The approach is in its early phases. Villagers are being skilled to function excursions close to their group and a centralised accounting process is being place in position to manage incomes from tourism. 

“We’re seeking to find techniques to sustain tourism so that it is inclusive, everybody can take part in it,” Pascal explained.

But the clock is ticking and the group is seeking to work out how it can protect the custom of the very long-neck females – if, in truth, it actually desires to.

In Pan Pet, the sun has previously long gone down and the village is bidding farewell to the very last tour bus of the working day. A group of smaller small children has gathered close to a campfire to maintain them selves warm.

Nearby, a younger female is loitering in the road, her neck-rings rattling softly. Nobody is aware how very long she will maintain them on. But for the likes of Mu Lone, the rings will relaxation on their necks for everyday living.

“I’ll use them right until I die and have them buried with me,” the previous woman says.

Follow Pichayada Promchertchoo on Twitter @PichayadaCNA 



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Exclusive: Success is identified by how dispensable I can make myself, says Suu Kyi


SINGAPORE: The achievement of Myanmar Point out Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi as a leader is resolved by how dispensable she can make herself, she explained.

“I hope that I’ll be able to make myself fully dispensable, that they will not need to have me to go on – neither my bash, nor my nation,” the Nobel laureate explained in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia’s Discussion With, which was broadcast on Thursday (Dec eight).

Ms Suu Kyi, who turned Myanmar’s Point out Counsellor and Overseas Minister immediately after her bash gained a landslide election victory last November, pointed out that the National League of Democracy (NLD) experienced managed to keep public guidance all over the previous two many years for the reason that they “ended up quite close to persons on the ground”.

“I have to maintain reminding persons that I was underneath house arrest for fifteen years… and we managed to maintain our bash heading in spite of the fantastic issue. So, you mustn’t undervalue the capability of lots of, lots of everyday associates of our political bash, and our associates are definitely the public,” explained Ms Suu Kyi in the interview, which took put last Friday.

The interview also touched on the Rohingya difficulty, the condition of Myanmar’s financial state, the NLD’s succession designs, and the country’s relations with China and the incoming Trump administration.

An edited and condensed transcript of the interview follows.

(Photo: Winnie Goh)

Lin Xueling: Point out Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, thank you quite substantially for becoming on Discussion With. 

Aung San Suu Kyi: Thank you.

Q: Do you feel the dilemma of the Rohingya is intractable?

A: No, I you should not feel. But it would aid a good deal if the global neighborhood, with a even larger comprehension, would recognise how fantastic a challenge it is and how delicate and sensitive the matter is. Simply because in the Rakhine, it is not just Muslims who are nervous and worried. The Rakhine are worried much too – they are worried about the simple fact that they are shrinking as a Rakhine inhabitants share-smart. And of class, we are not able to ignore the simple fact that the romance amongst the two communities has not been fantastic and we want to consider and make it better. But it does not aid if most people is just concentrating on the adverse facet of the circumstance in spite of the simple fact that there ended up attacks from law enforcement outposts which started on Oct nine. We have managed to maintain the circumstance underneath command and to relaxed it down, but I would appreciate it so substantially if the global neighborhood would aid us to retain peace and security and to make development in creating better relations amongst the two communities instead of often drumming up phone calls for even larger fires of resentment, if you like.

Q: But it is not exclusively the global neighborhood that is the root of this, Point out Counsellor. There are naturally problems on the ground.

A: I know that. I’m not stating there are no problems, but it helps if persons recognise the problems and are far more focused on resolving these problems relatively than exaggerating them so that all the things appears to be worse than it definitely is.

Q: In the scenario of the Advisory Panel, which is led by previous United Nations Secretary Normal Kofi Annan, isn’t it a dilemma even though? Many of the regional neighborhood don’t guidance it they see it as foreigners mixing in, biased – these are the terms made use of. This is by the regional neighborhood by themselves.

A: This is by some associates of the regional neighborhood, and I feel it is far more for political agenda than a correct comprehension of what the Commission is all about. For example, one particular of the Rakhine events and some many others consider to table a resolution in the legislature protesting from the Commission on the grounds that we ended up dragging an inside difficulty onto the global stage. We experienced to place out quite simply that the difficulty has been on the UN agenda considering the fact that 2010. So we ended up not dragging it up onto the global stage, we ended up hoping to take care of the dilemma and have fantastic self esteem in Dr Annan’s qualities to take care of this kind of tensions and this kind of conflicts.

Q: And that will be accepted by the regional neighborhood?

A: I feel it will be accepted by the fantastic majority of the persons of our nation who want peace and security, and who want to create harmony just about everywhere, in every single section of our nation, not just in Rakhine.

Q: And the Oct nine Investigative Commission which is becoming set up now – what is its ambit and what is the result that you would like to see from this?

A: What we would like is to obtain out what led to these attacks on Oct nine, and it goes back again some time, and to obtain out if the allegations of human legal rights violations are correct and if so, we will consider vital motion.

Q: But isn’t it uncomfortable then, that there are navy folks on the committee itself? Is there a conflict of interest there?

A: No, not at all. We want to make sure that most people is able to characterize his or have angle, and they will be able to see for by themselves what definitely happened. We feel that we need to have a well balanced commission.

Q: And you come to feel you have a well balanced commission at the second?

A: We have experimented with our greatest, we will obtain out shortly adequate if it is well balanced or not. And of class, if there is a need to have to improve the composition of the commission, there is certainly no rationale why it really should not be accomplished.

Q: Do you feel you are having to do pretty a bit of compromising, even though, to perform with the navy?

A: I you should not fully grasp pretty what you imply by compromise. It relies upon on what persons imply by compromise. Some persons, when they say compromise, they imply a compromise of concepts – no, that we do not do. But I often feel of it simply as negotiations – discovering to fully grasp each and every other. I feel of it as give and consider. Some persons feel give and consider signifies they consider all the time and the other facet gives, and that is not give and consider. So I you should not feel of it as compromise for the reason that of the misunderstanding of the phrase. We are completely ready to negotiate, we are completely ready to listen and to admit that probably, their place is better than ours and then they will have to do the similar much too.

Q: Do you feel then the navy has been acting underneath the rule of law?

A: We have been cooperating quite effectively. We have been working collectively with the navy, for the reason that in the Rakhine, the law enforcement and the navy have experienced to perform collectively. Of class, the law enforcement come underneath the civilian administration.

Q: But Point out Counsellor, if that is the scenario, why not enable global observers, journalists, to go in and see that?

A: We have permitted groups to go in and see what the circumstance is like, but we are not able to assure security just about everywhere. We have to make sure that no matter what we enable to occur officially ensures absolute security for all persons.

Q: No politician likes to place up a timeline, I know, Madam. But do you feel these troubles, if you say they are tractable – when do you feel you will have that peace and security in Myanmar?

A: It truly is not for the reason that we you should not want to place up a timeline, it is simply that basically persons you should not know, and I you should not know both. And people who say it’ll be accomplished by this kind of and this kind of a time, I you should not know how they obtain these responses. What I can say is that we want to take care of these troubles as rapidly as achievable and how rapidly we deal with to take care of them finally relies upon on the cooperation of the public. If our public are with us, if the majority of our persons are guiding us in our endeavors, then we will be able to take care of these troubles rapidly. But if they’re not with us, then it’ll consider more time. It truly is quite substantially a matter of the governing administration maintaining close to the public and to consider to make clear to them what it is that ended up hoping to do. Transparency is quite significant.

Q: Do you come to feel you have that now, the public, that citizens in Myanmar fully grasp what you might be hoping to do and are affected individual adequate to give you this time?

A: I feel the fantastic majority of them are. But of class, there are people with the political agenda who do not want us to take care of the difficulty so rapidly.

(Photo: Winnie Goh)

Q: Are you pleased with how these nine months have absent?

A: I you should not feel of pleasure or unhappiness. We realized that there would be lots of problems to conquer, and we are conquering them. Of class, one particular often wants to conquer them immediately, but we realized of class that this is a desire relatively than a practical perspective of what may well occur. But I feel I could say that on the complete, I’m happy for the reason that we’ve experienced to fulfill a number of problems which ended up not prepared, but continue to, I feel we are running to cope with the guidance of the persons.

Q: What is one thing that you are most happy with in these nine months, small as it is?

A: The simple fact that the ministers are not corrupt.

(Lin: Indeed, that is a substantive factor.)

Indeed, it is significant. The public accepts that while they say that all suitable, the ministers are not corrupt, but some of the junior officers are continue to not pretty what we would desire them to be.

Q: Do you feel you could improve that? Simply because at times, some persons say that these issues are cultural – that Southeast Asians are made use of to getting that kickback, made use of to smoothening issues out with sweeteners?

A: When I went to fulfill your corruption investigation bureau, they gave me a piece of paper, on which one particular of the issues say that corruption is a simple fact of lifestyle, not a way of lifestyle. I like that quite substantially, for the reason that this is how it is in our nation. Individuals accepted not this way of lifestyle, while they recognise that it is the simple fact of lifestyle. This signifies that the observe of corruption has not grow to be embedded in our lifestyle and that is quite encouraging.

Q: Domestically, overseas immediate financial investment is generally on the improve. But in modern months, there has been a bit of a dip, so are we looking at month-to-month fluctuations or do you feel that persons may well be a small bit apprehensive about these nine months, when issues are a small bit unsure?

A: I feel it is a small bit to do with the basic sluggishness of the entire world financial state and caution relatively than apprehension, for the reason that they’re waiting around for our financial investment law to come out. Previously, we have two financial investment laws, one particular for overseas financial investment and one particular for regional financial investment, which was not seen with fantastic favour generally. So we experienced a new financial investment law which went by way of the legislature not long ago and now, we’re drawing up the policies to go with it. So I feel that was what a good deal of investors ended up waiting around for. And of class, they needed to see what mindset we ended up heading to consider in the direction of overseas investors. We want to make them fully grasp that our nation is trader-helpful, and when I say trader-helpful, I also imply that we want the form of investments which would be effective to both of those sides – both of those companions – the ones who are investing as effectively as, of class, our persons who really should be the major beneficiaries.

Q: But can that at times be difficult if we search at inquiries of minimum wage and the place an trader may well want to have low wages? Even even though it may well reward the persons of Myanmar better to have better wages? For example, like what’s getting put now in the garment industry.

A: There will be troubles like that and when I met the Singaporean business enterprise neighborhood a pair of days in the past, one particular of them introduced this up. They ended up worried about unionisation. I explained this is unavoidable and what they really should do is to consider a new … they really should also adopt a new technique. They really should not just search at what they may well fulfill but what they can do. If they ended up to consider an technique, what I connect with a union-helpful technique, and make it apparent from the beginning that they welcome unions and that unions really should be for the welfare of the personnel and to make sure that relations amongst businesses and workers are fantastic. That, I feel, will consider way a good deal of anxieties joined to the union movement. There will be unions, we are not able to get away from that. And yes, persons will request for substantial wages for the reason that most people wants better wages. Appear at all the millionaires who go on working quite hard to make sure that they get richer!

Q: So you feel FDI is not one thing we need to have to get worried about? We will see it move in that basic, constructive way of far more FDI?

A: I you should not want to say very little to get worried about, for the reason that it seems a small bit much too casual. We consider it quite severely, we want to make sure that overseas financial investment will work, we want to make sure that overseas financial investment helps us to realize sustainable improvement.

Q: What about inflation, Madam? We’ve found inflation quite substantial – about nine per cent – which is relatively substantial and this is naturally difficult for everyday persons in Myanmar to have their wages maintain up with that degree in inflation. Are you worried about that? Are you worried that, hence, persons who voted you in may well come to feel they’re not getting the advantages if their incomes are becoming eroded?

A: At the second, in spite of the inflation, I you should not feel that people’s incomes have been much too eroded. Of class, this is once more a political instrument for people … I often forget that now we are no more time an opposition, so it is our opposition who would like to concentrate on this.

But you know that the cost of the greenback is heading up, not just in our nation but in basic, and inflation. Yet again, inflation is not one thing to be feared if improvement can maintain in advance of it. Of class, then persons will request, are we creating to that extent? I feel we are beginning to.

The 1st nine months have been difficult for the reason that we’ve experienced to apparent away a good deal of debris from preceding tactics and now only, ended up beginning to make a small bit of headway.

We also often have to maintain in intellect the political challenges that are of fantastic great importance to our nation for the reason that improvement and security go collectively. We are not able to have sustainable improvement without the need of peace and security, and peace and security are not able to be sustained without the need of prosperity. So it all goes collectively, and we have to search at issues from several diverse instructions, not just from one particular angle.

(Photo: Winnie Goh)

Q: Apart from the hat of Point out Counsellor, you basically also dress in the hat of Overseas Minister. So if we search at some of the issues that are going on all-around the entire world – are you at all anxious about a far more isolationist America underneath a Trump administration? And how would that influence Myanmar?

A: I you should not feel that it would significantly improve the romance amongst our two nations around the world, for the reason that we’ve often experienced fantastic relations with the US.

In simple fact, I feel that our classic overseas coverage has been fantastic. From the time of independence, we’ve concentrated on establishing helpful and fruitful relations with nations around the world all around the entire world. We ended up one particular of the neutral nations around the world, we did not consider sides all through the Cold War and we you should not want to consider sides.

We want to be able to perform collectively with most people. We have to co-exist for the reason that there is certainly no selection. When you search at the human race, it has progressed from the periods when we ended up operating all-around in caves clubbing each and every other.

Q: Gladly. But will not it improve the equilibrium of powers in this article in Asia as effectively if the US doesn’t play as energetic of a role?

A: The US is a significant electrical power. Perfectly, the most important in the entire world. So it could improve the equilibrium of electrical power, but we could often consider to make the improve one particular for the better relatively than for the worst, and it is up to most people.

Q: And you you should not feel at all that the chemistry will improve? You look to be able to get on quite effectively with Barack Obama, the present-day president. Will it be the similar also with Mr Trump?

A: I have by no means met him, but I’m pretty prepared to get on quite effectively with him.

Q: What type of role would you like to see China participating in in this article in Asia?

A: A constructive role, for the reason that China is a significant electrical power, and I feel its significant powers are able of undertaking a good deal of fantastic if they go about it in a constructive way. We have often experienced quite helpful relations with China all over the historical past of our unbiased country. And while we ended up on quite fantastic conditions with the West at that time, in the 1950s when the 1st Chinese communist governing administration was established, we ended up one particular of the 1st nations around the world to recognise it officially and to create fantastic relations with it, and China’s a neighbour. We are not able to move away from each and every other, so we have to make sure that we remain as fantastic neighbours.

Q: And you might be not apprehensive about what some commentators say is China’s rising, flexing of muscular tissues in our region?

A: I you should not feel apprehensive is the phrase I would use and in any case, apprehension does not do any fantastic. So I feel we just have to concentrate on generating sure that we create constructive relations with each and every other.

Q: So substantially of the political movement in Myanmar is tied up with you, your identity. Do you feel that if you ended up not in this article that there would be a rollback and that the navy would come back again into electrical power?

A: I have to maintain reminding persons that I was underneath house arrest for fifteen several years and they have only managed to keep public guidance all through that period of time, and we managed to maintain our bash heading in spite of the fantastic issue. So, you mustn’t undervalue the capability of lots of, lots of everyday associates of our political bash, and our associates are definitely the public, and we are quite close to the public.

For example, there ended up people who ended up shocked when the election final results that arrived out last year. We ended up not shocked for the reason that we ended up quite close to persons on the ground. We realized precisely how it was heading to be. Perfectly, we ended up wrong in about 6 or seven constituencies, but that is not bad thinking of that we ended up conversing about far more than a thousand seats, and to have absent wrong in only about 6 or seven demonstrates that we ended up able to gauge the temperature of the public pretty the right way, and I feel that is our greatest energy – that the bash was crafted on public guidance.

We rose out of the everyday public and that is how ended up heading to remain. And I feel for the reason that of that, the bash will be able to carry on underneath diverse situation.

Q: So you might be specified that let’s say, in twenty several years, in the coming several years as effectively, that you’ve got crafted up adequate of a successor base to retain these steps to democracy?

A: Our achievement, the place I am as a leader, is resolved by how dispensable I can make myself. And I hope that I’ll be able to make myself fully dispensable, that they will not need to have me to go on, neither my bash, nor my nation.

Q: Seriously, Point out Counsellor?

A: Seriously, for the reason that I feel that really should be the ambition of any accountable leader. You’ve bought to make by yourself dispensable. Or else, what you might be undertaking is for by yourself relatively than for your nation.

Q: And so, have you looked to see who there may well be?

A: Oh, we have, and we have a number of able persons in our bash.

Q: You wouldn’t desire to share with us?

A: I feel it is much too early.

Q: Do you feel, when you go to mattress at night, that your dad and mom would be happy with the issues that you are undertaking now?

A: I’m worried I’ve by no means believed about it when I go to mattress at night, but I’ll feel of it tonight.

Q: But do you feel they would be information with how you have led your lifestyle thus considerably?

A: I feel they would feel that I really should know greatest what I need to have to do with my lifestyle, for the reason that both of those of them thought in allowing for me to pick the form of lifestyle. Perfectly, I you should not definitely know no matter if my father would, but I would have believed he would for the reason that I was much too youthful when he died. But my mother surely was a quite unbiased-minded lady and I feel she would’ve comprehended pretty effectively that I really should be unbiased-minded much too.

Lin Xueling: Point out Counsellor, thank you quite substantially for becoming on Discussion With.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Thank you.



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The load of getting young in Timor-Leste


DILI, Timor-Leste: “Life is tricky,” he repeats for the 3rd time in our discussion. Like the 1st two instances, Arsenio de Deus utters these terms smilingly and without the slightest trace of bitterness. Life could be tricky, but in contrast to several other young Timorese, Arsenio – a lean young man with potent attributes – is aware he has plenty to be thankful for.

In a year’s time, the twenty five-calendar year-outdated will be graduating from the Countrywide College of Timor-Leste with a diploma in Education and learning. That puts him in a little, exclusive club in a region of 1.2 million people today, wherever only 3 per cent have write-up-secondary schooling.

Arsenio de Deus at household in his bedroom which he shares with his uncles. (Image: Ray Yeh)

Even more enviable to other Timorese youths: Arsenio has a career. Each individual week, other than for the few several hours of college class time, he operates from Monday by Saturday as a library catalogue assistant at the Xanana Gusmao Looking at Room, a neighborhood non-income organisation.

His every month profits, while little, is enough to pay for tuition and individual expenses. But just about every other cent goes toward supporting his mothers and fathers and two youthful siblings.

“My family members life is very simple. We are bad,” suggests the aspiring trainer.

Every person IS Loved ones

In the traditional Timorese society, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews and even godchildren are all regarded as instant family members. And as the oldest boy or girl, Arsenio suggests he has to get the job done tricky not just for himself, but for just about every family members member.

“There are a lot of familial commitments for individuals who do have revenue,” suggests Del Bovill, a volunteer librarian from New Zealand who operates closely with Arsenio. “There are usually needs for offered profits to go to celebrations, commemorations or funerals… and that makes it complicated for young people today to help you save.”

Arsenio at household with his mothers and fathers and brother. (Image: Ray Yeh)

On the surface area, that doesn’t feel so undesirable when you take into account that Timor-Leste’s demographics are what several a created financial system with a quick-ageing workforce would kill for.

An astounding 7 in ten Timorese are aged twenty five or youthful. On paper, that makes for a big, energetic foundation of successful young personnel with the possible to help any amount of households.

But youth unemployment is at an estimated 60 per cent. And with more than ten,000 large faculty graduates becoming a member of the workforce just about every calendar year, the issue is set to get even worse, except if the fledgling region can diversify its largely oil-based mostly financial system and produce work by creating sectors these as products and services and tourism.

Which is an uphill undertaking for the fourteen-calendar year-outdated nation which only gained independence in 2002 — right after four and a fifty percent generations of constant colonisation (1st by the Portuguese, then by the Indonesians), and a more latest history bathed in violence.

The Santa Cruz cemetery in the Timorese capital of Dili. On November 12, 1991, throughout the Indonesian profession of East Timor, at least 250 professional-independence demonstrators ended up massacred below. (Image: Ray Yeh)

“THAT’S High-quality, IT IS LIFE”

Shortage of chances isn’t the only obstacle for young Timorese. The Environment Financial institution also lists ensuring its young people today are educated and wholesome as posing the most significant development issues for Timor-Leste.

For Arsenio, household is a cluster of three self-built concrete homes 20 minutes exterior of Dili Central. It is shared by his huge prolonged family members of more than 20 people today. The homes are dim and very sparsely-furnished inside of, but the coronary heart of family members life is out in the again wherever the courtyard is – just about almost everything happens below. The adults sit, consume coffee, smoke a cigarette or two and socialise, when the little ones chase the pet dogs, chickens and just one a different around.

Animals kept in the backyard. (Image: Ray Yeh)

Foods are geared up by Arsenio’s aunts, commonly comprising rice, sweet potatoes and stewed vegetables. The De Deus family members does not take in meat typically. Animal protein is high priced in Timor-Leste thanks to the absence of huge-scale business farms.

There is also not enough “awareness of the importance of a balanced diet program, specially protein,” suggests Susan Marx, region agent of The Asia Basis. “It’s not as simple as ‘people are bad and thus they really do not take in well’. Timor-Leste did in the previous improve a huge amount of crops that ended up higher in protein. Beneath Indonesian instances, the shift to a rice-based mostly diet program transpired and I think which is component of the issue.”

Arsenio’s nephew possessing rice at household. Timorese people today generally consume a huge amount of starchy foodstuff but not enough protein. (Image: Ray Yeh)

To commute to get the job done, Arsenio commonly rides his motorbike. He saved up for months to buy his very own. In some cases, to help you save revenue on fuel, he will take the mikrolet – privately-owned numbered vans that have been converted into minibuses to consider travellers. This is the only type of community transportation offered in Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital.

Despite the fact that there are several aspects to his life that Arsenio needs to increase, he is not complaining. “That’s high-quality,” he suggests. “It is life.”

He is grateful to be “in the minority” of youths who are gainfully utilized. Several of his friends who have graduated have not been so lucky.

A LETTER OF DESPERATION 

Arsenio’s colleague, Maria Guterres, is aware exactly how it feels to be clean out of faculty and desperate for a career, any career. That transpired to her six decades in the past, when she was 20 decades outdated. For months, she had idled at household and watched her mothers and fathers and her six youthful siblings improve hungrier and skinnier.

“A lot of youths want to carry on with a lot of things,” suggests Maria. “But we can not blame them for not doing so, since get the job done is very minimal (in Timor-Leste).”

When factors could not get any even worse for her, a letter adjusted her life.

Timor-Leste’s then-Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, the former resistance fighter and residing hero, had married an Australian, Kirsty Sword. Throughout the resistance decades, Sword had felt so strongly for the plight of the Timorese that she grew to become a spy for Gusmao and other Timorese activists, disguising herself as a humanitarian support worker in Indonesia.

When the Indonesian troops eventually remaining Timor-Leste right after considerably bloodshed, she married Gusmao and as the 1st Girl, launched the Alola Basis to increase the lives of women of all ages in the region.

Maria had heard of what Sword did for young women of all ages by her basis – helping them find work and providing them scholarships. She necessary to be just one of them. But as the key minister’s spouse, Sword need to have been given hundreds of pleas for aid. Maria thought there was no way Sword could respond to just about every request. But she had almost nothing to eliminate. She sat down and commenced to compose. Then she despatched Sword the letter, anticipating only silence.

Times later on, her cell cell phone rang when she was sleeping.

“Hi, I’m Mana Kirsty and I been given your letter,” said the female on the other close of the line. ‘Mana’ is a neighborhood term of regard indicating sister. “Maybe following week I can meet up with with you?”

Maria thought she was dreaming. When she eventually satisfied the 1st Girl, she recounts: “She requested me, ‘What do you want?’ I answered, ‘I want to have a career, can you aid me?’ She requested, ‘You have a ability?’ I said I didn’t have any ability. She said, ‘Oh, you really do not have any ability, how can you get the job done?’”

That discussion produced Maria realise just how important schooling was. Sword enrolled Maria in an English language faculty, before providing her a scholarship to examine Computer Science at the Dili Institute of Know-how. When Maria graduated final calendar year, she was specified a career at the Xanana Gusmao Looking at Room, a different undertaking launched by Kirsty Sword.

Education and learning IS Key

According to figures from the United Nations Progress Programme, fifty percent the adults in Timor-Leste are illiterate. In Bovill’s impression, the most significant obstacle facing the Timorese federal government is to “lift the high-quality of education” and produce chances for young people today to “use individuals techniques in a meaningful way.”

Marx from The Asia Basis agrees. Despite the fact that schooling up to the secondary faculty degree is free and compulsory, just one in four little ones fall out of faculty before Quality 6 thanks to situation at household. She explains: “If you send out little ones to faculty, that indicates that they will not be offered to get the job done in a household or on a farm. So there has to be a simple link of what is the inherent gain of sending little ones to faculty.”

Aside from the youthful little ones, Marx also thinks it is important to achieve out to “the kinds who are previous their faculty age, who also feel disenfranchised and are unemployable”. Training them to come to be “mechanics, electricians, plumbers, in techniques that are practical” would not only produce work, it would also aid to diversify Timor-Leste’s oil-dependent financial system, she thinks.

Involving eighty five and 90 per cent of federal government profits will come from offshore petroleum assignments in the Timor Sea. Overseas authorities have named into issue the sustainability of Timor-Leste’s present financial product. Some even go as far as calling the region “a failed state”.

But changes are taking place, and Marx is optimistic about Timor-Leste’s upcoming.

“People look at Timor-Leste as kind of a new frontier. There is a lot of excitement between buyers,” she suggests. “I think Timor-Leste has that prospect to kind of leap frog in excess of a lot of the understanding curves that several nations in the location had to go by, by embracing engineering, specially cell engineering.”

YOUTHS Dedicated TO THE Long term

In the final 10 years, Timor-Leste’s cell subscriber foundation has greater speedily and penetration has moved previous the 100 per cent mark. There is no doubt that young Timorese are related to the world. “People know what’s going on. Persons know about social injustice,” suggests Marx.

“People know about the degree of products and services in other sites and so, even if they are not questioning it however, my sensation is that we will see a increase in need for products and services.”

Bovill has a comparable outlook. Her working experience doing work along with several young Timorese for the previous three decades has specified her exceptional insights into their mindset. “I would say they are hopeful,” she suggests. “They are in tune with the political problem. They are typically associates of political organisations. So they have a dedication to the upcoming by that avenue.”

At the Looking at Room, Arsenio typically talks to other young people today about the importance of receiving included. “If they come to the library, I will give some my tips, and we will help them to give their tips,” he suggests. “We should really talk about it since it is very important. And since life below is very, very tricky for young people today like me.”

No make any difference the obstacle, Arsenio thinks it can be get over: “We are Timor. Timorese people today (are) very potent to do all this, since we come from a potent people today.”

Up following: A diamond in the rough – Timor-Leste’s tourism possible. This is component of a series of stories by Channel NewsAsia’s Ray Yeh, who recently invested a week in the young region. Comply with him on Twitter @RayYehCNA, and take a look at ‘CNA Insider’ on Facebook for more stories.



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Hearth breaks out at resort underneath development in close proximity to Farrer Park


SINGAPORE: Hearth broke out in a constructing, considered to be a resort underneath development in close proximity to Farrer Park, on Wednesday night (Dec seven).

The Singapore Civil Defence Drive (SCDF) explained it was alerted to the blaze at about seven.30pm. It included that the fireplace was confined to a place in an uncompleted constructing along Owen Highway. 

The constructing is considered to be Park Hotel Farrer Park, which is scheduled to open up following calendar year.

(Picture: Say Xiangyu)

Shots sent to Channel NewsAsia showed flames and smoke coming from a window on one particular of the higher flooring of the constructing. 

SCDF explained the fireplace experienced been extinguished as of 9pm. 

(Picture: Say Xiangyu)



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Singapore Zoo Night Safari Tour



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Lego builds new company composition to improve brand


COPENHAGEN: Danish toy maker Lego introduced on Tuesday (Dec 6) a management shake-up to establish the brand outside of its iconic plastic bricks beneath the leadership of its veteran main who introduced the company back again from the brink of individual bankruptcy.

Chief government Jorgen Vig Knudstorp took above Lego when it was on verge of collapse in 2004 and reworked it into a person of the industry’s most significant good results stories, but he will step down by the end of the 12 months to head a new unit focusing on the Lego brand, known as Lego Brand Group, the company mentioned.

Lego’s outgoing CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp. (AFP/Nikolai Linares)

“With our latest expansion and globalisation arrive new and exciting alternatives for the brand,” deputy chairman and fourth generation proprietor Thomas Kirk Kristiansen mentioned in a statement. “We build the Lego Brand Group to seem into these new alternatives,” he mentioned.

Lego’s colourful toy blocks have proved resilient to the increase of digital units which is battering the regular toy business, but the company has also been adept at using distinct channels to interact with youngsters.

The team has permitted partners to establish branded online video game titles, a Hollywood blockbuster, television reveals and topic parks.

The company has grown above the years, but has constantly remained owned by the family members of creator Ole Kirk Kristiansen considering that its founding in 1932. Its revenue have greater 5-fold in the earlier 10 years, to 35.8 billion kroner (US$five.one billion).

The company shake-up need to be seen in the gentle of its loss-producing expansion into non-main firms prior to Knudstorp took above, Niels Lunde, editor of Danish organization day-to-day Borsen and the author of a ebook about Lego, told AFP.

“Lego makes use of its brand in more channels now than it made use of to, and that is what Jorgen Vig Knudstorp will oversee in the new role,” he mentioned.

Knudstorp was the initial non-family members member to get the helm of the team. He will be changed at the Lego Group by 14-12 months Lego veteran Bali Padda, at present the firm’s main running officer.

Padda, a Briton, will be the initial non-Dane to head Lego Group, which will manufacture the plastic bricks.

“Lego has become so massive that it is really challenging for a person main government to carry out all of the jobs,” Lunde mentioned. “The main government role (of Lego Group) will become scaled-down now than it has been,” he added.

The new unit, Lego Brand Group, would perform with the Lego Group as well as other models, including Lego Education and learning and points of interest at the Merlin Entertainments-controlled Legoland topic parks.

Knudstorp will also become chairman of Lego Group.



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