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Ahm Abdul Hai—Media Development and International Cooperation: Dream and Reality in Current Myanmar

Media is the safeguard of civic rights and freedom of speech in a democracy. Media is the real outlet for the open discussion of intellectual thoughts and ideas. In the transitional political environment in Myanmar the role of media is vital to ensure the freedom of expression and basic rights of all citizens irrespective of colour, class, race, religion and regions. But under the military regime of five decades the intellectual practices and the media freedom have been severely censured and suppressed. Even all mechanisms to weaken the intellectual freedom and open thought were adopted through changing the teaching and learning environment in the formal and non-formal educational facilities. Since the beginning of the reforms process, several initiatives have been taken to ensure the freedom of speech and the press freedom. Media development cooperation is going on in different forms of service and support for the stakeholders. In spite of these initiatives the print publication and broadcasting in the media outlets are censured and controlled through different strategic mechanisms. The presentation will focus on the support and cooperation of different international media development organisations (IMDOs) since 2011 and the challenges and limitations in the current perspective of political dilemma. The dream-like expectation in different media sectors and the ambitious offer of standard journalism education for ethical, objective and investigative journalism will be presented to find out the pragmatic recommendation for the better development cooperation among the local and international stakeholders.

Felix Hessler—“Suffering and the End of Suffering“: Buddhist organizations – local practices and frameworks of social development

For the last few decades, especially since the end of the military government, Buddhist organizations have been in a state of flux. In this formative phase, many new groups have been founded that try to work for the betterment of society in fields like education and humanitarian aid or tentatively (and in recent years not so tentatively) in the political sphere. They employ novel ways of engaging with society – practices that are created in local contexts often get disseminated nationwide while at the same time global practices affect local contexts. The narrative frameworks that lie underneath have a strong impact on the role of monks in society and can be classified on a spectrum of reformism to (re-) traditionalization. The most visible changes relate to the relationships between the saṅgha, state and laity. Frictions and areas of contestation begin to show that will likely shape the course of Burmese society in the future.

By means of looking at three seemingly disparate groups – a big monastic education organization, a monastic network engaged in humanitarian aid and Ma Ba Tha, the infamous Association for the Protection of Race and Religion – my presentation will both examine localized practices and their frameworks as well as argue for a broader perspective that focuses on the similarities between the three groups and thus may help to inform discussions about the chances and impediments that Buddhist organizations pose to social development.


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