Professor Chaw Chaw Sein
My trip to Vladivostok, located in Far East, Russia is to participate in Russia-ASEAN University Forum, which was organized by two Russian top universities—the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU). It was a two-day forum and was held in Vladivostok, Russia Far East from 1st September to 2nd September 2016. The campus, FEFU was chosen as a venue since the APEC Summit was hosted by Russia in 2012. The campus has become the traditional location for the Eastern Economic Forum, the annual Pacific International Tourism Expo (PITE) and other international event. The forum was held together with Eastern Economic Forum, which was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and high-level officials and business communities around the world.
Let me share some interesting points about Far East. Since 2000, the term, “Far East” has been increasingly used to signify the Far Eastern federal district, which is made up of nine territories with the constitutional status of federal subject. Although the Far East occupies more than one-third of Russia’s total area, it has only about six million residents. Under the former Soviet Union, the region had very limited economic and human ties with the outside world. Nikita Khrushchev (the then President of Soviet Union) visited to Sakhalin in 1959 and Vladivostok was a chance in the context of his attempt to decentralize the Soviet economy. He famously promised that Vladivostok would be the second San Francisco someday. For most of the Soviet period, the Far East existed virtually isolated from the international environment. However, the situation changed in 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1990s, the Russian Far East enjoyed almost full liberalization in its external relations, especially in trade. While in the 1990s, Moscow almost completely neglected the Russian Far East, largely leaving the region to its own devices.
However, under President Putin, the central government began to reassert its influence, including in the area of the region’s external links. The government even adopted a special program under the title “ Vladivostok City as a Center for International Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.” In May 2012, President Putin created a special government ministry for the development of Far East. Three bridges appeared in Vladivostok before the APEC Summit 2012. A high level bridge over the Golden Horn connected the Center of Vladivostok with the Mys Chukin District and became one of ten largest cable bridges in the world. New bridges decorated seaside city, coughs the fancy of local residents and becomes a new symbol of Vladivostok. The Eastern Economic Forum was first held in 2015. It welcomed more than 15,000 officials, representatives of business and expert communities from 26 countries of Southeast Asia, Europe and America.
After exploring about the Far East, one thing come to my mind is about the Rakhine State, which is periphery of Myanmar. Why can’t Myanmar develop the periphery of its own country like Far East of Russia? The answer is very simple. The Rakhine State of Myanmar has ethnic armed rebellion as well as communal violence. Without peace and stability in this area, it is impossible to develop like Far East of Russia. People in Myanmar should take lessons and experience from Russia and China as well. In April 2015, I had an opportunity to participate the study tour on “ A Belt and A Road” organized by Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament, a think tank of China. The new inland Free Trade Zones of Ningxia (Silk Routes) and Fujian Province (maritime Silk Road) are remarkable showcases of what the “ A Belt and A Road” that could mean for neighboring countries that brought into China’s new Silk Road diplomacy. Ningxia is a showcase of the effectiveness of China’s domestic policy to integrate its Muslim communities. Integration and prosperity are the best solutions to prevent radicalization and extremist movements. The Ningxia Free Trade Zone also combines into Roman, Arabic and Chinese architecture, symbolizing Silk Road Trade between China and Europe via Central Asia.
Let me continue to share information about FEFU campus. It is situated in Vladivostok on scenic Russky Island and was founded only in 2011. However, under the Russia Government Special Program, it quickly became the main educational institution of the region. Over 300,000 students study in 468 majors and courses and beautiful dormitories accommodate 11,000 students and teachers. During the forum, it was also a great opportunity for me to explore the big campus where all the delegations from ASEAN member countries were accommodated.
It was such an exciting trip for me to explore “Far East”. It was a long trip; it took five and half-hours from Yangon to Incheon with Korean Air, nearly two hours from Incheon to Vladivostok with Siberian Air. There were altogether nine delegations representing Myanmar, seven from Ministry of Education and two from Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Permanent Secretary from Ministry of Education led the delegations of education. Let me also share my view on this Russia-ASEAN University Forum. The participants who were invited by Russian government were from ministerial level to director level. All the education ministers of ASEAN member countries were invited to participate. The aim of holding such kind of forum is to establish network between the ASEAN and Russian universities. Ministers for education from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia participated very actively and discussed future collaboration with Russian universities. This is a good opportunity for all ASEAN universities to grab full scholarships offered by Russian government. The forum is the first ever of Russia-ASEAN University Forum and is also a follow up Russia-ASEAN Summit, held in Sochi in early June 2016 to which our president U Htin Kyaw attended. The Russian government encouraged and funded their Universities to extend research collaborations and exchange of faculties and students.
Although my mother ministry is education, I participated this forum as a representative and member of the Myanmar ISIS, a think tank under Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As representing Myanmar ISIS, I have to speak in special session on “ Second Track Dialogue on Security Issues: Contributions of ASEAN and Russian Experts and Scholars”. There were ten speakers in this sessions and I am only a female speaker. I felt honored to conduct as a speaker in representing my country and my University. Almost all the speakers discussed about the role of Russia in the South China Sea, how Russia view on security in Asia-Pacific, the role of think tank in contributing policy recommendation to the respective governments. It was a great opportunity for me to meet with these officials and shared my view on security issues. They are also amazed and impressed with the changes in Myanmar.
I came back with full thought on how can I bridge the Universities in Myanmar with Russia. As a follow up, two delegations from MGIMO visited Myanmar ISIS and my University for future collaboration. Universities in Myanmar are collaborating with many universities around the world especially with China, Japan and Korea. Now it is an opportunity for us to network with another major power country in Far East, Russia. Not to loose the opportunity comparing with other ASEAN universities, voice of Myanmar should also be aired and not to hesitate to participate in the forums hosted by Far East, Russia.
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to my Ministry and my country for giving me a chance to participate Russia-ASEAN University Forum. My special thanks go to MGIMO and FEFU for providing all the necessary requirements and taking care of me during my stay in Far East. Finally, I would like to put on record the gratitude I owe to the Ministry of Education and University of Yangon as well as Myanmar ISIS for every single arrangement to visit Vladivostok.