Readers Rejoice: Burma Studies Centre Opens in Rangoon

By Yen Saning 18 March 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s cultural and commercial capital just got a new resource for inquisitive city-dwellers. The Burma Studies Centre, a homegrown institution that opened on Wednesday, features an extensive book collection and a space reserved for reading, research and writing.

The center is free and open for all to peruse books and documents about Burma’s history, politics and culture, and offers facilities for visitors to work in, complete with free Wi-Fi.

The founders, Ye Myo Hein and his wife, Moira Po Shein, said they hope the center will eventually serve as an archive, a venue for expert lectures and a networking hub for scholars.

“We will collect and preserve books and artifacts, and turn this into a research library. Most of [Burma’s] cultural materials, books, papers and fine arts are either collected abroad or have been destroyed. We want to collect it and make it available to those who want to study it here,” Ye Myo Hein told The Irrawaddy during an opening ceremony on Wednesday.

Ye Myo Hein and Moira Po Shein have been collecting rarities of Burmese literature and materials related to Burma for about two decades, they said. Many of their books date back to the early 1900s.

The Burma Studies Centre was modeled after the Myanmar Book Club founded in the 1920s during the time of J.S. Furnivall and Gordon Luce, Ye Myo Hein said.

“Lots of young intellectuals emerged from that, who later took up important roles in Burma,” he said. “Beyond the1960s, everything was being controlled [by the government].”

To mark the opening of the new facility, the Burma Studies Centre teamed up with the Tagaung institute of Political Science to jointly publish a bilingual paper by revered Burma expert and journalist Bertil Lintner, titled “Myanmar 2015: The Ethnic Issue.”

Among the other featured books on display for visitors’ perusal are “Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads” by Benedict Rogers; “In the Name of Pauk-Phaw: Myanmar’s China Policy Since 1948” by Maung Aung Myoe; and “A History of Southeast Asia” by D.G.E. Hall.

“We want to give people resources,” said Moira Po Shein. “If people also want to consult with Burma experts and discuss their research, we can arrange that.”

The Burma Studies Centre is located at No. 501, building D, Anawyahtar Housing, Hledan, in Rangoon’s Kamayut Township. The center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 6pm.