YANGON — Looking at Myanmar’s current issues but avoiding directly criticizing the National League for Democracy government, experts laid out possible scenarios for the future at a talk in Yangon on Sunday.
Ten experts from the fields of art, literature, religion, technology, economics, environment, media and politics contributed their insights along with a few hundred participants in the discussion entitled “Myanmar 2050.”
Highlighting the impact of climate change, the restriction of press freedom, environmental and social values, technology, and the promotion of education, experts and politicians stated that Myanmar would be the same 30 years from now if social changes did not start now.
“Myanmar is now in an emergency,” said Dr. Thant Myint-U, a historian and chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust. He went on to speak about a range of issues – including climate change, the economy, migration and inter-ethnic relations – facing the country.
“The people of Myanmar must radically rethink the lives they want and their position in the world to come. The failure of politics is a failure of the imagination,” he said. “Myanmar needs a completely new story, a new vision of the future – one that can bring everyone together to address the real challenges to come.”
Creating a space for intellectual research to be shared with the public, the organizer the Institute for Strategy and Policy-Myanmar said the discussion may or may not be critical, but that it would be a useful exercise for shaping future policy. ISP-Myanmar plans to organize such a scenario-building event – based on South Africa’s Mont Fleur scenarios – every month.
U Aung Thu Nyein, the director of communications at ISP-Myanmar, said: “We have had very few talks given by intellectuals. Scholarly research is not widely published and is often left on the bookshelves. We want to create a space for discussion and interaction.”
“We want to lay out food for thought for future visionary leadership, which is why we tried not to discuss current affairs that would result in directly criticizing the government.”
The speakers did raise current issues though including food security, civil war, copyright infringement, ethics, social values, and a lack of creativity and innovation.
Geopolitical and demographic issues were also discussed including Myanmar nationals migrating to neighboring countries to seek job opportunities due to civil war and economic hardship.
Sai Nyunt Lwin, the general secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), said achieving national reconciliation and ending civil war “depends entirely on leaders’ integrity, good intentions, and keeping promises.”
If peace is not attained by 2020, the country may still be fighting in 2050 and “it will be in deep trouble,” he added.
Speakers said that the future would depend on leadership putting trust in the youth.
Min Zin, one of the speakers and the executive director of ISP-Myanmar, said that not only do the youth need to build their skills, but also the political landscape must allow them to use what they’ve learned.
“Our job is to pass on knowledge and promote future leaders, who have to emerge from their communities. But for them to prove their skills, the political setting must be open to them,” he said, adding that Myanmar must rely on more leaders rather than concentrating the power with only a few.
He urged those currently in leadership positions to reach out to younger generations and allow them to work. “If we aren’t willing to do this, we will be in trouble. We are already in trouble,” he said.
“We have been seeing only the old faces, even in the cabinet. The average age of cabinet members and ministers is about 65. It shows that we do not promote young leadership,” he said, reflecting on the current NLD leadership.