Thursday, 14 November 2019

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Exiled ‘think tank’ returns to Burma

(Mizzima) – Members of the exiled Vahu Development Institute, a think tank on Burmese development and economic reform, are returning to Burma after decades in exile.

Burmese academic Aung Naing Oo of Chiang Mai, who fled a brutal crackdown on student protests over two decades ago, speaks to reporters upon his return to his homeland for the first time at Rangoon international airport. Aung Naing Oo had not set foot in the country formerly known as Burma for almost a quarter century since escaping through the jungle into Thailand after the army brutally crushed student protests in 1988. Photo: AFP Two members, Zaw Oo and Tin Maung Than, returned permanently on Friday.

Vahu deputy director Aung Naing Oo of Chiang Mai told The Myanmar Times that the group decided to return because of the rapid changes over the past year.

“We believed that change would certainly happen, but slowly. But the process is very quick and within a year there have been many unexpected things… Our return is a proof. It’s quicker than we expected,” he told the English-language newspaper.

He said arranging the transition will require some time. They will open an office in Rangoon and later try to expand to other areas of the country, he said.

The group of academics will seek partnerships with the government and private sector to work on the development process. He said by building strong democratic institutions “equitable development” will be ensured in the country, and they would meet with government officials, Aung San Suu Kyi and members of other political parties.

An article in Agence France Presse on Friday said members of the group fled Burma in 1988 to join opposition forces in Thailand.
Aung Naing Oo said he was “overwhelmed” to be back home after almost half his life spent in exile.

He told AFP, “I think in some ways it is a kind of miracle, and I think the former military officers in government will suddenly wake up and realize that they have to catch up with the rest of the world.”

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