GUWAHATI, Dec 9 - India and Myanmar have maintained a strong legacy of friendship, trust and cooperation for centuries, and the neighbouring southeast Asian nation expects an active role by New Delhi in diverse fields. But, due to reasons best known to the Indian government, visible efforts from New Delhi continue to be rare in contrast with the hyperactivism adopted by the Chinese administration.
This was stated by Debbie Stothard, a journalist turned pro-democracy human rights activist from Myanmar, while speaking to a group of journalists at the Guwahati Press Club through video conferencing from Bogo near Yangon a couple of days back.
Stothard said there was unusual delay in the functioning of the much-hyped Kaladan multi-modal project that would connect Myanmar’s Sittwe port with Northeast India. On the other hand, Beijing successfully installed a project of oil and gas pipelines from the same Arakan province to China’s Kunming city and has already made it operational.
Not only in the energy sector, Chinese agencies have been working relentlessly in Myanmar with an inherent influence over the present regime in Nay Pyi Taw, said Stothard, who has worked as a journalist, community educator and trainer in Malaysia, Thailand and Australia.
Answering queries from Guwahati scribes, she said that all historical ruins across Myanmar related to India’s freedom movement should be preserved. She said Gandhi Hall, INA headquarters, Bahadur Shah Zafar’s tomb, etc., in Yangon need proper conservation. She said it would also help the Myanmar government as those places have historical and tourism interest for millions of Indians.
Describing State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s role in the quasi-democratic government of Myanmar, she admitted that it was a great challenge for the Myanmarese icon to continue the peace mission with various ethnic armed groups as well as other pro-people initiatives.
Stothard, however, said that even though the international community and media fraternity were outraged over the Nobel laureate’s silence on the Rohingya controversy, Suu Kyi continues to be popular among the common Myanmarese people.
On the Rohingya issue, Stothard insisted on their safe and dignified return to Myanmar. She urged the Bangladesh and Indian governments to support the mission.
She said that there was a sizable population from both the neighbouring countries – India and Bangladesh – in Myanmar and hence the regimes in Dhaka and New Delhi should consider it a matter of immediate concern.
Asserting that the Myanmarese military still enjoys a significant influence over the government, Stothard said the media and rights activists are still under pressure in the country. Even though there is no censorship for the media at present, journalists in the county have to be extra careful while reporting on hard issues like corruption in high places and non-governance in a nascent democracy.