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Monday, December 10, 2018

How to cook Burmese breakfast with nann and white peas!

Since I came back to California, I have been recreating some of the Burmese dishes I tasted in Burma.
After tantalizing you all with my previous food blogs, I should post some recipe. 
Here is one for the main ingredient of many Burmese breakfast dishes - boiled yellow beans called Pe Pyot.  I found a version of recipe from this blog written by an oversea Burmese like me.

My recipe is simple, though require sprouting the yellow beans. I would attempt to describe my step by step method. Please see the photo in clockwise.

Clockwise: Yellow beans/peas, how to sprout, after 36 hours, cooking in rice cooker

Where to shop for yellow beans
Burmese yellow beans are also called yellow peas, garden peas or Vatana in Indian. I used to find them in Indian grocery stores in Hong Kong and in US. Asian supermarkets in the Bay area such as Ranch99, Marina or Pacific Supermarket carry them. The one in my picture came from Pacific Supermarket in Daly City.
  • Pacific Supermarket, 1420 Southgate Ave, Daly City, CA 94015 (650)994-1688.

How to sprout yellow beans
Must you sprout? I tried both ways and sprouting is easy, tastier (in my humble opinion) and it only takes a little patient of 2 or 3 days. Raw food has been advocating health benefits of sprouted beans, even cooked sprouted beans aid easier digestion, provide additional Vitamins and protein.
I used this youtube video method for sprouting beans.

  1. Soak yellow beans a bowl of water for 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Place the beans in a dish towel/cheese cloth and put it in a pot, close it and leave it in a cool, dry, and dark place overnight. Youtube video suggested in a dry oven.
  3. Check it in the next morning and make sure it is wet. Wash the beans and place it back in the pot if there are no sprouts yet. The sprouts may already been there depending on the state and condition of the beans. 
  4. I had a few issues in my trials of sprouting - if the weather is very hot like summer in Hong Kong, the beans can get spoiled. I would sprout the beans in the refrigerator. Yes it works but it may take a lot longer than 3 days.

How to boil yellow beans
Pe Pyot literally means boiled beans. Pe is beans, pyot means boiled. Pe could have been any beans but we love these specific yellow beans.

  • 2 cups of dried yellow beans, presoaked and sprouted yellow beans
  • 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoons of turmeric (optional)
  • 3 cups of water (or more if the sprouted beans more than double the size)

  • 2 cups of dried yellow beans would double the size after soaking and sprouting, would produce about 4 cups or more. It is organic living beans that I just had about 6 cups of beans the night before.
  • My method is place them in the rice cooker, add water and all the ingredients and let the rice cooker cook it till it foamed and the beans are tender. Remove the foam.
  • If you don't have a rice cooker, one can use the same recipe in a pot. Let it boil first with higher temperature on a stove, reduce heat after boiling and cover the pot and let it cook for 30 to 45 mins. The beans can get dried and stuck to the pot so stir a bit and add water if needed. 
  • Taste it and season with salt and black pepper.
Baking soda is a necessary magic for cooking this bean to be tender and soft. Turmeric is optional.  I really like the nice yellow color and the taste though one needs to be careful of using too much in a dish as it can be a bit bitter. Turmeric is used frequently in Burmese, Indian and other Asian dishes. It is known to have anti-infammatory or other medicinal power, and use frequently in Ayurvedic medicine

Burmese Breakfast using yellow beans

Now that you have a basic boiled yellow beans, you can now use it for a number of breakfast dishes.
  1. Burmese style fried rice (recipe below)
  2. Nan bread or Paratha with yellow beans (recipe for yellow beans below)
  3. Black sticky rice with yellow beans 
  4. Hsi Htamin (Yellow sticky rice) with yellow beans 
  5. Mont Pyet Talet (Rice pancake) with yellow beans

1. Burmese Style Fried Rice
This is a very traditional Burmese breakfast you can find in a cafe in a city like Yangon or Mandalay. We can also get this in Burma Superstar or other Burmese restaurants in the Bay area.  As a vegan dish as shown in the picture below, I don't use eggs. The recipe though uses eggs.

  • 2 eggs 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 4 cups of leftover cook rice, white rice or brown rice (traditional one is white rice, Burma Superstar uses brown rice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion sliced thinly
  • 2 cups of boiled yellow beans (already cool and boiled ahead by above recipe)
For Garnish
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion sliced thinly and fried 
  • 2 tablespoon of fried minced fresh ginger (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1 fried egg sunnyside up (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grounded toasted white sesame seeds (optional)

  • In a bowl, break eggs and beat with a fork lightly.
  • Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat, add 1/2 medium sliced yellow onion, and cook stirring occasionally until it is soft, translucent and tender but not brown. 
  • Add beaten eggs and scramble a bit until it is cooked well. Add rice, turmeric, and yellow beans and season with salt. Fry over medium high heat for about 10 mins, while stirring frequently. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.  
  • Serve with crispy fried onions. 
You may also add all other optional garnishes. In Burma, garnishes are brought to your table on small side dishes and up to individual's taste, one can add those to the dish. We love all kinds of garnishes.

2. Nan bread or Paratha with yellow beans (recipe below for yellow beans)

  • 4 Nan or pita bread and/or Paratha
  • 1 cup of Boiled yellow beans
  • 1/2 Medium fried yellow onions
  • 1/8 cup of vegetable or olive oil

  • Heat oil in a frying pan, add 1/2 medium sliced yellow onion, and cook stirring occasionally until it is starting to be brown. Take out the onion and set them aside for garnish.
  • In the same oil, add yellow beans to heat them up for 3-5 mins. Depending on your taste, one can mash them a bit or keep them whole. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
  • Garnish with fried onions.
  • Serve with warm Nan, Pita bread and/or Paratha. Paratha is layered fried bread. 
One can buy Pita bread in almost all the grocery stores. Nan and Paratha can be purchased in a local Indian grocery store. One day, I will try to make my own and will post a recipe.

3. Black sticky rice with yellow beans 

One can purchase black sticky rice in most Asian groceries and supermarkets. Cook the rice in a rice cooker with 1 cup rice to 1 cup water ratio. Sprinkle with salt and grounded toasted sesame seeds.
4. Hsi Htamin (Yellow sticky rice) with yellow beans 

This picture came from my recent Burmese breakfast at Feel in Yangon. Here I have Hsi Htamin (yellow rice), literal meaning in Burmese mean Hsi = Oil, Htmain = rice, Oil rice along with black sticky rice, garnish with freshly grated coconut. I will post the recipe soon. This is one of my favorite dishes.

5. Mont Pyet Talet (rice pancake) with yellow beans

I will find the recipe soon, re-create at home and will post it as this is really yummy. Another variation is Mont Lin Ba Ya (Lin Ba Ya means a couple - husband and wife).  It is made of smaller pancakes with yellow beans cook separately and put them back together. 


However for no reason, I seem to have stocked a whole packet of this and I suddenly realized that I don’t’ have to shop for this! This yellow peas is the main ingredient of many Burmese breakfast dishes. Pe Byouk simply means Boiled Beans. To understand this, it took me many days of reading. Some of the other dishes prepared with this is ‘htamin jaw’, fried rice with ‘pe byouk’ and ‘yei nway jan’ (burmese tea). Apart from rice, it is also paired with paratha, ‘kauk nyin paung’ (black sticky rice), ‘hsi htamin’ (yellow sticky rice), ‘mont pyet talet’ (rice pancake) and even with a bowl of plain white rice.

Read this site, if you want to know what a hold this breakfast combo dish has on the people of Myanmar! 
I finally made my own version after being inspired by thisthis and this.

As I told you, I somehow don’t like how the yellow peas smell after being cooked and I have couple of dishes that I avoided just for this smell. However after cooking this, I was so surprised that the aroma was missing and I actually enjoyed this dish so much. I nailed it finally to the fact that these yellow peas gets sprouted and then boiled. Sprouting removed that smell!
I decided going forward, it is going to be sprouted yellow peas for me!
I enjoyed these boiled sauteed peas on the top of the Burmese Naan Flat-bread
Pe Byouk
How to sprout Yellow Peas
Makes: Approximately 2 – 3 cups
Soaking Time: 8 hours
Sprouting Time: 36 hours or more
Cooking Time: in Pressure cooker, 15 – 20 mins, depending on 3 -4 whistles.
For sprouting
Soak peas in a large pot with plenty of water, at least 5 to 6 inches of on top, overnight. They will expend for more than double of its size. 
Drain water in a large colander, transfer the peas to a muslin cloth and tie a thread to keep it secure. rinse in water and keep it in a vessel. Leave it this way for about 36 hours or until it starts to sprout. I soaked overnight on a Saturday, then on the Sunday morning, I tied it in a muslin cloth and left it on the counter. By Monday morning, I spotted the peas sprouts, I refrigerated and cooked it on Tuesday.
To make the Pe Byouk
Ingredients Needed:
Yellow Pea / Vatana – 1 cup
Baking Soda a small pinch (infact you can skip this)
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Sugar – 1/2 tsp
Oil – 1 tsp 
To boil the peas
Take the sprouted peas in a pressure cooker along with a pinch of salt, sugar and a few drops of oil Pressure cook for 3 -4 whistles. 
Once the peas are cooked, remove.
To saute
Boiled yellow peas – 1 cup
Onion, sliced – 1 
Oil – 2 tsp
Turmeric powder a pinch
Salt to taste
Sugar – a pinch
Water – 2 tbsp
Fried shallots with garlic, for garnishing
How to make Pe Byouk
Heat oil in a non stick, add the sliced and turmeric powder. Stir fry it till it turns light brown and soft. Add in the boiled yellow beans and saute for 3 to 5 mins. You can mash them a bit or keep them whole. Season it with salt and sugar. And then lastly, add in the water. This is to soften the beans.
Garnish with fried shallots with garlic.
Serve Pe Byouk on top of the Burmese Naan Flat-bread

Sunday, December 9, 2018

What to consider when purchasing a vehicle in 2018


While used Toyotas are more popular, interest in new cars assembled locally by the likes of Ford, Nissan and Suzuki is rising. Photo: The Myanmar Times

The government’s new 2018 car import policy restricting car imports to new left-hand-drive vehicles has changed the way car owners make decisions on buying or selling vehicles. Within the short term, used cars made by Toyota are expected to be in demand. Over the longer term though, the sale of new vehicles made by other car makers will rise.

With the new policy in effect, prospective car buyers now have several options to choose from when considering which vehicle to purchase. These are brand new locally assembled left-hand-drives, new imported left-hand-drives and used right or left-hand drive cars.  

Over the next few months, car dealers are expecting more demand for used Toyota right-hand-drives, which were produced and imported for domestic use in the past. As such, Toyotas are perceived to be of good quality by the locals and represent the largest proportion of vehicles on the road.  

“For buyers with a budget of K40 million-K50 million, they should go for the used Toyotas made between 2011 and 2013 as these vehicles are of higher quality and will no longer be available from now on,” said U Min Min Maung, managing director of Wun Yan Kha car sales center.  

For example, those looking for vehicles to go on long-distance or family trips can opt for the Toyota Surf or Alphard, as these cars car carry up to seven people and cost around K40 million or less.  

“Those who cannot afford to buy the Alphard can go for the Toyota Wish, which has the same passenger capacity as the Alphard but at a lower price,” said U Aung Than Win, chair of Motor Vehicles Trading Association.

For buyers wanting smaller vehicles for basic transportation and shorter distances, they should choose used Toyotas with 1,300 cubic centimeter engines, which is more fuel efficient and easier to park on the narrow, congested roads of Yangon. These vehicles are priced between K15 million and K20 million.

Option to sell

One other important factor to consider when buying a car is its resale value. In Myanmar, almost every owner is likely to sell his car, while buying second hand is common practice. Currently, used, imported Toyotas are perceived to have better quality and resale value than new locally assembled vehicles.

This is because “sellers can cover the cost of the car when they sell to others. The older Japanese cars are in demand and much easier to sell than some of the new ones owing to perceptions on quality. Sometimes, sellers of used Japanese vehicles can even profit from the sale. What’s certain is they will not lose their initial capital with a Japanese car,” said U Min Min Maung.

In comparison, even though new locally assembled cars come with warranties and may be even cheaper than a used Toyota, owners are unlikely to recover the cost of the vehicle when selling them in the second hand market. 

“Other than considering their own preferences for cars, buyers are also thinking about how easy it is to sell the car if they need the money or want to change cars. So, they should choose cars that are well-received by the market,” said U Aung Than Win.

Ma Su Myat from Ahlone Township, who intends to buy a car soon for a budget of up to K35 million, said she will likely choose a used Toyota Mark II instead of a new car assembled locally. “I think the imported Toyota, even though it is second hand, is comparable to a new one made here. But more importantly, this brand is popular in Myanmar and easy to resell,” she said.

U Aung Than Win agreed. “Toyota is very popular in Myanmar. So many models are imported from overseas and buyers have a lot of options to choose from,” he said, adding that the availability of spare parts and service centers for used Toyotas is also more accessible in Myanmar, which is a big plus when choosing between car makers.

After Toyota, buyers tend to choose Honda as a second option, with Nissan and Suzuki making up the third and fourth option. 

Price over brand

Nevertheless, car dealers said customers are now less concerned about the brand and becoming more price conscious. “In my experience, customers are starting to compare more between new and used cars. Used Japanese right-hand-drives are becoming much too expensive because of the new policy so buyers are getting less bang for their buck,” said U Aung Naing Tun, director from Sakura car sales center.

In fact, it won’t be long before demand rises for new locally made left-hand-drives by Nissan, Suzuki and Ford. “Interest in the new cars is starting to pick up.  Customers are starting to base their decisions more on price and value over brand. Moreover, unlike the used Toyotas, the prices for new cars are stable and customers can buy whenever they want. I think the Japanese used car market won’t be able to compete with the new car market over the longer term,” said U Aung Naing Tun.

Ma Witt Ye from Hlaing Township is one of those customers. “I will buy a new car for about K30 million because there is a warranty and after sales service. Some people say locally made cars are not of good quality. But at least I will be driving a new car. I will think about selling it later,” she said.

Local car makers are also permitted to issue coveted Yangon license plates to buyers. The Yangon Regional Government last year stopped issuing parking recommendation letters, which is required documentation for obtaining a Yangon license plate. Vehicle owners with Yangon license plates are allowed to park overnight in Yangon. Currently, car buyers are issued with license plates from other states and regions.


Car permit prices likely to tumble

Prospective buyers wait in line to file applications to buy Chery QQ3 sedans at the Ministry of Industry’s car sales centre in Yangon on December 14. Yadanar/ The Myanmar Times
Prospective buyers wait in line to file applications to buy Chery QQ3 sedans at the Ministry of Industry’s car sales centre in Yangon on December 14. Yadanar/ The Myanmar Times

The value of vehicle import permits are expected to fall in coming months as more become available and car sales centres open, a number of industry sources said last week.

Export companies and hotel and tourism operators with at least US$100,000 in domestic bank accounts, as well as Myanmar workers abroad who have at least US$30,000 in bank accounts here will be able to access permits in coming months, the Ministry of Commerce website states.

A ministry official told The Myanmar Times on December 20 that about 900 export companies and 700 overseas workers had applied for import permits, with about 30 percent already approved.

Soon after the government unveiled the “overage” car import substitution plan in September the price of import permits – obtained when a 40-year-old or older vehicle was submitted to the government for scrapping – hit a high of about K12 million.

But the ministry official said in coming months that permits would no longer be required because car sales centres would be opened, allowing consumers to buy vehicles directly.

In mid-December the Ministry of Industry briefly opened sales centres in Yangon and Mandalay to sell 1000 Chinese-made Chery QQ3 sedans. However, the cars sold out within a week.

The official added that nine service companies, including Sakura Technical Services Company, Diamond Auto Services Company and Sandrar Services Company, would open sales centres in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw in January.

For the time being they would only be allowed to sell vehicles to people with import permits but in future would be allowed to sell freely, he said.

Under the overage car substitution program buyers were limited to selecting cars made between 1995 and 2002 but the companies and overseas workers with US dollar accounts will be able to bring in brand new vehicles.

About 6700 cars have already been imported under the import substitution program, with about 12,000 older vehicles submitted for substitution.

Ko Aung Naing Htun, the manager of Sakura Technical Services and automobile sales centre, said the price of selected Toyota models in Tokyo used car auctions had skyrocketed on demand from Myanmar since September.

Toyota Mark II sedans, colloquially called shwe ngar or gold fish, increased in price from US$2000 to $7000 for 2001-02 models because they were in such strong demand. Buyers have been circumventing the import substitution plan’s $3500 value cap by paying money to the sellers in Japan through the illegal hundi remittance network, he said.

“An organisation should be set up to monitor the prices paid at auctions in Japan to ensure that people don’t cheat the system,” he said.

U Aung Win, car trader at Yangon Hantharwaddy car trading zone, said import permits acquired by overseas Myanmar workers were only valued at between K2 million and K4 million because the market perception was that the import process was too complicated.

He added that import permits obtained through the car import substitution program had not fallen greatly in value yet because market demand was still strong. But he added that when the next batch of cars, with htasingtoo number plate prefixes, started being submitted for import permits prices would probably fall by about 20 percent because there were about 50,000 of these vehicles on the road, although most were government vehicles.


Old car, permit prices rising again, say Traders


After months of steady declines, prices for used cars and import permits are on the way back up, car traders said last week.

They say a pause in the government’s overage car import substitution program, coupled with rumours that importers would be able to buy even newer vehicles, have pushed prices upward.

The Ministry for Commerce announced in early May that citizens with foreign currency bank accounts held at state-run banks could import cars made between 2007 and 2010 with engines of 1350 cubic centimetres or less in capacity without a permit. Foreign currency accounts with private banks have since been added to that program, with popular small cars, such as Toyota Vitz, Suzuki Swift and Honda Fit, selling for between K11 million and K20 million.

The earlier car import substation policy, which was unveiled in September, had limited imports to cars made between 1995 and 2006.

However, owners of the many car sales centres that have opened since September asked the government in May to amend the import substitution policy to allow them to import newer vehicles.

U Kyaw Nyunt, a trader at Yangon’s Hantharwaddy car trading zone, said the hottest selling vehicles are those eligible for immediate substitution – pazuat prefix – or the next batch, balachaik, which is widely expected to follow after the window for pazuat-plated cars finishes in August.

“There is strong demand for cars with balachaik-prefix plates, which is pushing prices upward because there are comparatively few of these cars available,” he said.

By late August the price of import permits had climbed to about K8 million, up from K7-7.5 million in early August, and K5 million in July.

However, the highest price of about K16 million was reached in late April, just before the announcement concerning small capacity cars.

The precipitous price fall left some buyers who had ordered cars at the peak of the market to absorb large losses, traders said.

U Htun Aye, a spokesperson for Shwe Yamon car sales centre in Mayangone township, said the government should consider a new approach to allowing people to import cars.

“The policy is strange – people are allowed to buy cars through showrooms but they are also allowed to import from trading companies, which is not always reliable.

“I think that perhaps the whole system of import permits should be scrapped,” he said.

U Htun Aye said the system left everybody, including buyers, sellers, traders and sales centre owners, vulnerable because prices could not be predicted.

“People should be able to buy cars however they like, if they can afford to. This should not depend on the government’s policy,” he said

“Showrooms should be able to sell cars made later than 2006 but now we’re not in a position to do all we can for customers,” he said.

The government has allowed car sales centres to accept consignments of second-hand vehicles from Japanese firms, which can then be returned if they go unsold. However, some centres have reportedly been forced to accept major losses in recent months because they pre-paid for cars.

Another Hantharwaddy dealer said the consignment system is not effective.

“Plenty of car sales centres are working with traders and brokers at Hantharwaddy to sell their vehicles because they don’t want to hold too much stock at once,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Ministry of Commerce official said cars worth up to K10 million would be imported from Thailand soon.

He added that the cars could be charged a customs duty of 5 percent, compared to the 30-40pc normally levied because they will be imported under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement. However, because the country of origin is Japan, not Thailand, officials were still discussing how much tax would be charged.

“Although officials announced [on the Ministry of Commerce website] that ASEAN and ASEAN relate countries [including Japan] will be charged lower customs duty they are still discussing the tax rate,” he said.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Exclusive: Success is determined by how dispensable I can make myself, says Suu Kyi

"I hope that I’ll be able to make myself totally dispensable, that they will not need me to go on – neither my party, nor my country,” Aung San Suu Kyi said in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia’s Conversation With, which was broadcast on Thursday (Dec 8).

08 Dec 2016 08:30PM

Lin Xueling: State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, thank you very much for being on Conversation With. 

Aung San Suu Kyi: Thank you.

Q: Do you think the problem of the Rohingya is intractable?

A: No, I don't think. But it would help a lot if the international community, with a bigger understanding, would recognise how great a challenge it is and how sensitive and delicate the matter is. Because in the Rakhine, it's not just Muslims who are nervous and worried. The Rakhine are worried too - they are worried about the fact that they are shrinking as a Rakhine population percentage-wise. And of course, we cannot ignore the fact that the relationship between the two communities has not been good and we want to try and make it better. But it doesn't help if everybody is just concentrating on the negative side of the situation in spite of the fact that there were attacks against police outposts which began on Oct 9. We have managed to keep the situation under control and to calm it down, but I would appreciate it so much if the international community would help us to maintain peace and stability and to make progress in building better relations between the two communities instead of always drumming up calls for bigger fires of resentment, if you like.

Q: But it is not solely the international community that is the root of this, State Counsellor. There are obviously difficulties on the ground.

A: I know that. I'm not saying there are no difficulties, but it helps if people recognise the difficulties and are more focused on resolving these difficulties rather than exaggerating them so that everything seems worse than it really is.

Q: In the case of the Advisory Panel, which is led by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, isn't it a problem though? Many of the local community don’t support it they see it as foreigners mixing in, biased – these are the words used. This is by the local community themselves.

A: This is by some members of the local community, and I think it's more for political agenda than a true understanding of what the Commission is all about. For example, one of the Rakhine parties and some others try to table a resolution in the legislature protesting against the Commission on the grounds that we were dragging an internal issue onto the international stage. We had to point out very simply that the issue has been on the UN agenda since 2010. So we were not dragging it up onto the international stage, we were trying to resolve the problem and have great confidence in Dr Annan's abilities to resolve such tensions and such conflicts.

Q: And that will be accepted by the local community?

A: I think it will be accepted by the great majority of the people of our country who want peace and stability, and who want to establish harmony everywhere, in every part of our country, not just in Rakhine.

Q: And the Oct 9 Investigative Commission that’s being set up now – what is its ambit and what is the result that you would like to see from this?

A: What we would like is to find out what led to these attacks on Oct 9, and it goes back some time, and to find out if the allegations of human rights violations are accurate and if so, we will take necessary action.

Q: But isn't it awkward then, that there are military persons on the committee itself? Is there a conflict of interest there?

A: No, not at all. We want to make sure that everybody is able to represent his or own angle, and they will be able to see for themselves what really happened. We think that we need a balanced commission.

Q: And you feel you have a balanced commission at the moment?

A: We've tried our best, we'll find out soon enough if it's balanced or not. And of course, if there is a need to change the composition of the commission, there's no reason why it should not be done.

Q: Do you think you’re having to do quite a bit of compromising, though, to work with the military?

A: I don't understand quite what you mean by compromise. It depends on what people mean by compromise. Some people, when they say compromise, they mean a compromise of principles – no, that we do not do. But I always think of it simply as negotiations - learning to understand each other. I think of it as give and take. Some people think give and take means they take all the time and the other side gives, and that's not give and take. So I don't think of it as compromise because of the misunderstanding of the word. We are ready to negotiate, we are ready to listen and to admit that perhaps, their point is better than ours and then they must do the same too.

Q: Do you think then the military has been acting under the rule of law?

A: We have been cooperating very well. We have been working together with the military, because in the Rakhine, the police and the military have had to work together. Of course, the police come under the civilian administration.

Q: But State Counsellor, if that's the case, why not allow international observers, journalists, to go in and see that?

A: We have allowed teams to go in and see what the situation is like, but we cannot guarantee security everywhere. We have to make sure that whatever we allow to happen officially guarantees absolute security for all people.

Q: No politician likes to put up a timeline, I know, Madam. But do you think these problems, if you say they are tractable - when do you think you’ll have that peace and stability in Myanmar?

A: It's not because we don't want to put up a timeline, it's simply that actually people don't know, and I don't know either. And those who say it'll be done by such and such a time, I don't know how they find these answers. What I can say is that we want to resolve these problems as quickly as possible and how quickly we manage to resolve them ultimately depends on the cooperation of the public. If our public are with us, if the majority of our people are behind us in our endeavors, then we'll be able to resolve these problems quickly. But if they're not with us, then it'll take longer. It's very much a matter of the government keeping close to the public and to try to explain to them what it is that were trying to do. Transparency is very important.

Q: Do you feel you have that now, the public, that citizens in Myanmar understand what you're trying to do and are patient enough to give you this time?

A: I think the great majority of them are. But of course, there are those with the political agenda who do not want us to resolve the issue so quickly.

Q: Are you happy with how these nine months have gone?

A: I don't think of happiness or unhappiness. We knew that there would be many challenges to overcome, and we are overcoming them. Of course, one always wants to overcome them immediately, but we knew of course that this is a wish rather than a practical view of what might happen. But I think I could say that on the whole, I'm satisfied because we've had to meet a number of challenges which were not planned, but still, I think we are managing to cope with the support of the people.

Q: What is something that you’re most pleased with in these nine months, short as it is?

A: The fact that the ministers are not corrupt.

(Lin: Yes, that is a substantive thing.)

Yes, it's important. The public accepts that although they say that all right, the ministers are not corrupt, but some of the junior officers are still not quite what we would wish them to be.

Q: Do you think you could change that? Because sometimes, some people say that these things are cultural – that Southeast Asians are used to taking that kickback, used to smoothening things out with sweeteners?

A: When I went to meet your corruption investigation bureau, they gave me a piece of paper, on which one of the things say that corruption is a fact of life, not a way of life. I like that very much, because this is how it is in our country. People accepted not this way of life, although they recognise that it is the fact of life. This means that the practice of corruption has not become embedded in our culture and that's very encouraging.

Q: Domestically, foreign direct investment is generally on the increase. But in recent months, there has been a bit of a dip, so are we looking at monthly fluctuations or do you think that people might be a little bit apprehensive about these nine months, when things are a little bit uncertain?

A: I think it's a little bit to do with the general sluggishness of the world economy and caution rather than apprehension, because they're waiting for our investment law to come out. Previously, we have two investment laws, one for foreign investment and one for local investment, which was not viewed with great favour generally. So we had a new investment law which went through the legislature recently and now, we're drawing up the rules to go with it. So I think that was what a lot of investors were waiting for. And of course, they wanted to see what attitude we were going to take towards foreign investors. We want to make them understand that our country is investor-friendly, and when I say investor-friendly, I also mean that we want the kind of investments which would be beneficial to both sides - both partners - the ones who are investing as well as, of course, our people who should be the primary beneficiaries.

Q: But can that sometimes be difficult if we look at questions of minimum wage and where an investor might want to have low wages? Even though it might benefit the people of Myanmar better to have higher wages? For example, like what’s taking place now in the garment industry.

A: There will be problems like that and when I met the Singaporean business community a couple of days ago, one of them brought this up. They were worried about unionisation. I said this is unavoidable and what they should do is to take a new ... they should also adopt a new approach. They should not just look at what they might meet but what they can do. If they were to take an approach, what I call a union-friendly approach, and make it clear from the beginning that they welcome unions and that unions should be for the welfare of the workers and to make sure that relations between employers and employees are good. That, I think, will take way a lot of worries linked to the union movement. There will be unions, we can't get away from that. And yes, people will ask for high wages because everybody wants higher wages. Look at all the millionaires who go on working very hard to make sure that they get richer!

Q: So you think FDI is not something we need to worry about? We will see it move in that general, positive direction of more FDI?

A: I don't want to say nothing to worry about, because it sounds a little bit too casual. We take it very seriously, we want to make sure that foreign investment works, we want to make sure that foreign investment helps us to achieve sustainable development.

Q: What about inflation, Madam? We’ve seen inflation very high – about 9 per cent - which is rather high and this is obviously difficult for ordinary people in Myanmar to have their wages keep up with that level in inflation. Are you worried about that? Are you worried that, therefore, people who voted you in might feel they’re not getting the benefits if their incomes are being eroded?

A: At the moment, in spite of the inflation, I don't think that people's incomes have been too eroded. Of course, this is again a political tool for those ... I always forget that now we are no longer an opposition, so it's our opposition who would like to focus on this.

But you know that the price of the dollar is going up, not just in our country but in general, and inflation. Again, inflation is not something to be feared if development can keep ahead of it. Of course, then people will ask, are we developing to that extent? I think we are beginning to.

The first nine months have been difficult because we've had to clear away a lot of debris from previous practices and now only, were beginning to make a little bit of headway.

We also always have to keep in mind the political issues that are of great importance to our country because development and stability go together. We can't have sustainable development without peace and stability, and peace and stability cannot be sustained without prosperity. So it all goes together, and we have to look at things from several different directions, not just from one angle.

Q: Apart from the hat of State Counsellor, you actually also wear the hat of Foreign Minister. So if we look at some of the things that are happening around the world - are you at all concerned about a more isolationist America under a Trump administration? And how would that affect Myanmar?

A: I don't think that it would substantially change the relationship between our two countries, because we've always had good relations with the US.

In fact, I think that our traditional foreign policy has been good. From the time of independence, we've concentrated on establishing friendly and fruitful relations with countries all over the world. We were one of the neutral countries, we did not take sides during the Cold War and we don't want to take sides.

We want to be able to work together with everybody. We have to co-exist because there's no choice. When you look at the human race, it has progressed from the times when we were running around in caves clubbing each other.

Q: Gladly. But won’t it change the balance of powers here in Asia as well if the US doesn’t play as active of a role?

A: The US is a big power. Well, the biggest in the world. So it could change the balance of power, but we could always try to make the change one for the better rather than for the worst, and it's up to everybody.

Q: And you don't think at all that the chemistry will change? You seem to be able to get on very well with Barack Obama, the current president. Will it be the same also with Mr Trump?

A: I have never met him, but I'm quite prepared to get on very well with him.

Q: What sort of role would you like to see China playing here in Asia?

A: A positive role, because China is a big power, and I think its big powers are capable of doing a lot of good if they go about it in a positive way. We've always had very friendly relations with China throughout the history of our independent nation. And although we were on very good terms with the West at that time, in the 1950s when the first Chinese communist government was established, we were one of the first countries to recognise it officially and to establish good relations with it, and China's a neighbour. We can't move away from each other, so we have to make sure that we stay as good neighbours.

Q: And you're not apprehensive about what some commentators say is China’s increasing, flexing of muscles in our region?

A: I don't think apprehensive is the word I would use and anyway, apprehension doesn't do any good. So I think we just have to concentrate on making sure that we establish positive relations with each other.

Q: So much of the political movement in Myanmar is tied up with you, your personality. Do you think that if you were not here that there would be a rollback and that the military would come back into power?

A: I have to keep reminding people that I was under house arrest for 15 years and they've only managed to retain public support during that period, and we managed to keep our party going in spite of the great difficulty. So, you mustn't underestimate the ability of many, many ordinary members of our political party, and our members are really the public, and we are very close to the public.

For example, there were those who were surprised when the election results that came out last year. We were not surprised because we were very close to people on the ground. We knew exactly how it was going to be. Well, we were wrong in about six or seven constituencies, but that's not bad considering that we were talking about more than a thousand seats, and to have gone wrong in only about six or seven shows that we were able to gauge the temperature of the public quite correctly, and I think that's our greatest strength – that the party was built on public support.

We rose out of the ordinary public and that is how were going to stay. And I think because of that, the party will be able to carry on under different circumstances.

Q: So you're certain that let's say, in 20 years, in the coming years as well, that you've built up enough of a successor base to maintain these steps to democracy?

A: Our success, where I am as a leader, is decided by how dispensable I can make myself. And I hope that I'll be able to make myself totally dispensable, that they will not need me to go on, neither my party, nor my country.

Q: Really, State Counsellor?

A: Really, because I think that should be the ambition of any responsible leader. You've got to make yourself dispensable. Otherwise, what you're doing is for yourself rather than for your country.

Q: And so, have you looked to see who there might be?

A: Oh, we have, and we have a number of capable people in our party.

Q: You wouldn’t wish to share with us?

A: I think it's too early.

Q: Do you think, when you go to bed at night, that your parents would be pleased with the things that you are doing now?

A: I'm afraid I've never thought about it when I go to bed at night, but I'll think of it tonight.

Q: But do you think they would be content with how you have led your life thus far?

A: I think they would think that I should know best what I need to do with my life, because both of them believed in allowing me to choose the kind of life. Well, I don't really know whether my father would, but I would have thought he would because I was too young when he died. But my mother certainly was a very independent-minded woman and I think she would've understood quite well that I should be independent-minded too.

Lin Xueling: State Counsellor, thank you very much for being on Conversation With.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Thank you.

Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/exclusive-success-is-determined-by-how-dispensable-i-can-make-my-7636558

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