25 May 2015 -- Preparation for the US-Burma Engagement Conference, the first of its kind to be held in the US State of Indianapolis, is fully underway. The Chinland Guardian interviews a leading organizer Salai Elaisa Vahnie, executive director of the Burmese American Community Institute.
Chinland Guardian: We understand that you are a key organizer of the upcoming conference, which will be held on 29 May in Indianapolis, USA. Tell us the purpose of this conference.
Salai Elaisa Vahnie: The US-Myanmar Engagement Conference is a one-day conference to promote substantive discussions regarding the current political and economic situation in Burma/Myanmar and create partnerships between participants. The conference will support the development of relationships and strategic partnerships between investors and trained professionals originally from Burma, as well as between a wide range of stakeholders from both the US and Burma, to help foster local institutional capacity in Burma.
Chinland Guardian: What topics will be discussed at the conference?
Salai Elaisa Vahnie: The conference will cover 1) the U.S. policy priorities towards the Southeast Asian Nation 2) The growing diplomatic and business relationships between the two countries 3) A holistic overview of Burma's economic and political outlook, including the ongoing peace process, the political dialogue, and constitutional reform processes and 4) how the general election may play out in 2015 and beyond.
In short, this conference will examine critical issues and opportunities, encouraging open, serious, inclusive dialogue and collective actions for the future of Burma.
Chinland Guardian: What do you hope to achieve?
Salai Elaisa Vahnie: Firstly, participants will have an increased knowledge of political situations, an increased knowledge of ethnic conflicts and peace processes in Burma, an increased knowledge of US policy priorities towards Burma, a better understanding of the important works that the U.S. government is doing for Burma– through USAID, DOS, Businesses, Non-profits – to the people of Burma, increased people-to-people engagement and diplomacy aimed at helping improve the overall US-Burma relations. Secondly, potential business investors in Burma from the US will participate.
Finally and most importantly, we are hopeful that this type of engagement and discussion will help the participants gain a better awareness of the opportunities to help Burma move forward to democracy by increasing the probability and likelihood of the US-trained Burmese educated returning to participate in the reform process in the country, and ultimately, to promote liberty, peace, and prosperity in Burma.
Chinland Guardian: Why is it important to do such a conference?
Salai Elaisa Vahnie: As you know, many in Burma and around the world are looking at 2015 as a barometer for the reform process’s success thus far. With elections slated for later this year, the country’s commitment to democracy, transparency, and human rights will be closely observed by the international community. It is important to have a conference such as this which will serve as a forum through which students, activists, reformers, businessmen, professionals, academia, and community members will participate and have the opportunity to engage in in-depth and substantive discussions. They will examine the critical issues and opportunities for the future of Burma.
At the same time, it is important, while we constructively engage in the dialogue at various levels, that we are also able to continue to simultaneously support the development of relationships and strategic partnerships among various stakeholders locally and globally that benefit the two countries.
Chinland Guardian: Who will be attending?
Salai Elaisa Vahnie: We will have speakers from the U.S. Department of Commerce, USAID, the US-ASEAN Business Council, the Australian National University-Indiana University Pan-Asia Institute, as well as Professor David C. Williams, Constitutional Law Expert from the Indiana University School of Law, and U Harn Yawnghwe, Executive Director of the Euro-Burma Office. A special video keynote message will be provided by Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as a keynote address by H.E. U Kyaw Tin, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the UN.
This conference is designed for anyone interested whether they are government officials, businessmen or businesswomen, NGOs, activists, reformers, Burma experts and academics, or students who are interested in Burma and Southeast Asia.
Chinland Guardian: What do you expect from a video message from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?
Salai Elaisa Vahnie: We are excited about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's keynote address as she will touch on critically important issues such as the need for constitutional reform as part of fundamental change and political development as well as when and how economic development in Burma should be encouraged and implemented.
We can perhaps expect that she will also briefly highlight some of the policy and action priorities of the National League for Democracy before and after the 2015 elections which I believe she has not mentioned so far in any of her speeches. So, this is truly exciting.#