Rangoon Uni Letter ‘Not from President’s Office’

The Convocation Hall of Rangoon University. (Photo: Wagaung / WikiMedia)

The open letter of U Myint, Naypyidaw’s leading economic adviser, which calls for the restoration of Rangoon University, was based on his personal views and does not reflect the President’s Office, according to President’s Thein Sein’s chief political adviser Ko Ko Hlaing.

In a press conference held in Rangoon on Thursday, Ko Ko Hlaing said U Myint’s proposal regarding “the restoration of the image of Rangoon University” was not distributed with prior knowledge nor reflected any view of the President’s Office.

However, he added that he believes the letter was written with good intentions towards the university.

Ko Ko Hlaing said that the state specially desired revitalizing the image of Rangoon University but also wanted all learning institutions across the country to be able to compete with their peers across the world. The state cannot turn a blind eye to other schools while paying close attention to the former, he stressed.

The political adviser revealed that an information technology university from India has agreed to open a Burmese branch to help develop the nation’s higher education capacity, while next year South Korea will be offering assistance to build the Myanmar Development Institute, which will be similar to the Korea Development Institute.

“It can’t be done right away as it takes time to develop an education system,” he said. “Rangoon University, Rangoon Institute of Economics and Rangoon University of Computer Studies will be built up as centers of excellence.”

Ko Ko Hlaing also explained that tennis courts belonging to Rangoon University were not transferred to private businessmen. Instead, they have been upgraded for the 2013 Southeast Asian Games which Burma will host, he said.

When asked about the Thursday press conference, U Myint admitted to The Irrawaddy that his letter was not related to the President’s Office but simply reflected his views in a personal capacity.

The most important issue in Burma is national reconciliation and, as a former lecturer of economics, he wrote the letter with the good-willed intention to improve relations between the government and students, he said.

“I just wrote about the Students Union by reflecting upon my university days, that’s all,” he said. “It wouldn’t harm the country though.”

Some journalists who attended the May 24 press briefing told The Irrawaddy that they thought a rift may be forming between U Myint and other advisers over the issue.

“U Myint’s letter was constructive—not to leave the Rangoon University empty but make it crowded with students as before, make it one of the most prestigious seats of learning in Asia as before and allow forming student unions,” said an editor of a domestic news journal who asked to remain anonymous.

“The president and his other advisers did not seem to accept his proposal and that’s why the press conference was organized. U Myint may resign from his current position or be dismissed.”

Led by Ko Ko Hlaing, the press conference was reportedly held under a direct order from the President’s Office. Other prominent advisers to Thein Sein were also present such as Dr. Nay Zin Latt, Sit Aye and Khin Cho Myint.

The Rangoon University campus, an original hub of the students’ political movement since British colonial rule, has been at the center of major events throughout Burmese history. But regular classes have not been held there since the 1990s after the former military junta systematically moved universities to suburban areas in order to quell dissenter activities.

U Myint also suggested restoring the Students Union building, reinstating classes in the center of the former capital as well as bringing back hostels and all related infrastructure. The Students Union building was demolished by dictator Ne Win after mass protests against his coup in 1962.


8 Responses to Rangoon Uni Letter ‘Not from President’s Office’

  1. Dr.Myint is truly a person of wisdom who loves his country. How can a country improve economically when education is in shamble, without infrastructure and no legal framework. These pillars must be first established with the true spirit of democracy – then only country can go right direction. There’s no doubt burma will get bussiness deals from other countries due to location and resources – but is it going to be sustainable and beneficial to people in long term? Education is the key and Dr.Myint has highlighted it and anyone having problem with it is only showing their true colors.

  2. Ko Ko Hlaing is lacking touch with reality. Burma currently does not have enough resources in terms of people or capital to pull up the broken education system. The original objective of opening smaller universities across country and closing the main Rangoon one is to prevent students around country becoming united against the junta. If he really see this as a thing of past, he must think about what is the best optimal plan to really upgrade the education system and hence the workforce. Since there are only few really qualified professors, centralizing the education at least for few years will be a good option. And promote distance education (using satellite/IT technology) and part-time education programs (night schools) that will allow working people to upgrade themselves. Country wide entrance exam should be held and give scholarships to all top students across the country in every state and division to learn at the main university. For the rest, make education affordable by opening work-study programs. Burma used to have those kind of systems long before – why not install them back. Another alternative is establishing the GCE O Level standards by reviewing the textbooks (in the past, textbooks were written with that standard, current ones are nearly trash). No one wants to invest time and money in a diploma/degree which is not recognized internationally. Just having many schools/universities like mushrooms is not equivalent to quality. And just shifting one main responsibility of government to private sector when there’s little regulation and legal framework is dangerous for the country. And yes, we need electricity for all that to be done and allow people to study. What the current government needs is an upgrade in their heart and mind.

  3. I predict, this transition to “democracy” and “freedom of speech”, if it ever happens in Burma, is not going to be smooth. There are too many skeletons in the closet. Some people want to rewrite history, just like the Chinese. I personally remember 7/7/62!
    I think the purge of shitlone THTRTAMO is not a done deal yet. Shwe Mann should be next, but then how is Thein Sein and his reform crew supposed to get rid of all the other skeletons, Chinese ghosts and business charlatans (relatives and cronies of the previous junta) still roaming around in Naypyitaw and even going to Peking to get instructions, like this Htay Oo guy. Corrupt oligarchy is not democracy, not even a “disciplined democracy” (what an oxymoron lol).
    Burma needs a French Revolution of sorts.
    Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

  4. U Myint must have taken a calculated risk, not just indulging in nostalgia, since this was an open letter. He’s certainly going to find out what price democracy and freedom of expression.

  5. This gentleman is not qualified to give any opinion or comments on Saya U Myint’s letter. He had never been to University nor enjoy the Gangaw Myaing, university life. What the hell he is yelling and twittering on the educated and civilized culture. This reminds us what U Ne Win done on our University,what is the compensation of destructive deeds, bombing, mining, massacres and downgraded the Rangoon University image and education system of Burma. Imagine..now this gentle tries to survive that immortal concepts and ideas that will one day or another harm to our democratic culture.You are trained and brought up to kill or be killed not for this profession.

  6. U Myint has thrown a spanner in the works. How dare he propose something so sensible and spoil the plans for real development of this prime piece of real estate? At best he is seen as a loose cannon, at worst being completely out of order. By speaking out of turn he’s touched a raw nerve.

  7. A cue perhaps, even if unintended, for students to show solidarity with the candlelight protesters, pipeline protesters and striking workers in their fight against the joint tyranny of state and Big Business.

    OCCUPY RU/RUSU! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

  8. I support U Myint all the same.
    A university is admittedly a center of learning, students’ peaceable political actions being responses to unsatisfactory, if not downright objectionable, situations of the day. It is part of leadership training with a vision for better organization and fair and good government of the country. It is not destructive as opposed authoritarians may decide.
    Let us pray U Myint stay and work in the President’s advisory group. For he is a good sort.

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