Drug Eradication in Kachin State through Substitute Production

 

Yesterday, on May 3rd, 2018, we successfully held a workshop at the M2 de Bangkok hotel on the topic of Drug Eradication in Kachin State through Substitute Production. The workshop was based on the research of Mr. James Lomethong, who is a doctoral candidate at the School of Management, Shinawatra University, under my supervision.

After I provided a basic overview of the research project and its significance, JAmes himself spoke about his experiences. He was followed by Mr. Xuwichai Hiranpruek, who has extensive knowledge of drug eradication in the Meoong Region and has been active in that subject since the 1980s. Subsequently, we heard from Major Aung, who has had experience in fighting drugs for both Myanmar’s army and police. After this, we heard from Mr. Zaw Ban, an entrepreneur (and former MBA student of Shinawatra University) who has begun growing and marketing inca inchi nuts, which are the product James has identified as being a potentially suitable substitute product. There was also a contribution from K Khunsawat (Tony) Somanuksawat, who has a large amount of land cultivating nuts in the Chiang Mai area and is central to the development of the sector. Finally, we heard from K Paisal Sae Lor, from Bangkok Toastmasters, which is an organization with which James has been associated for a number of years.

Major Aung, who has served with Myanmar’s army and police with respect to drug eradication, speaks about his experiences.

Mr. Xuwichai Hiranpruek, who has extensive knowledge and experience of drug eradication and substitute production, shares his understanding.

We focused on the problems of bringing farmers and potential substitute products in contact with markets through connectivity, better infrastructure and market development. As long as it is economically beneficially to grow opium compared to other crops, farmers will continue to do so, no matter how many interventions by the state are made.

In terms of James’ research, we divided the main findings into the following main themes, through content analysis:

  • Everyday experiences of drugs
  • Personal experiences
  • Institutional failures
  • The perspective of the authorities
  • Rehabilitation
  • Gender aspects of drugs production and trade
  • The Hmong and Cabbages
  • Drugs in Nagaland

Please feel free to contact me by email (jcwalsh@siu.ac.th) for further details.

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Connectivity and Healthcare in Myanmar

I spent this weekend attending the ERIA Workshop on the Second Phase of the Project on the Digital Economy, Innovation and East Asia at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit Hotel here in sunny Bangkok. The weekend went well and 15 presentations were made overall. Now we will continue to produce the final versions of the papers which will be published as an ERIA report (http://www.eria.org/publications/) and possibly an edited book thereafter.

The abstract for my paper was:

Connectivity and the Healthcare Market in Myanmar

Abstract

One of the results of the long isolation of Myanmar and its people has been the way in which its healthcare industry has become obsolete and lacking in resources. Although wealthy Myanmar people have been able to travel to Thailand or Singapore for contemporary standards of healthcare for the last few years, this option has not been available for the majority of the people. Instead, they have been required to rely on low-cost options, such as the use of generic pharmaceutical products and traditional remedies, in the absence of affordable and high-quality local services. The issues are compounded by the absence of modern healthcare products, the inability of healthcare staff to learn from overseas sources and the limitations on modern communications on almost any subject. However, this situation is changing as the country is opening to the world and burgeoning connectivity is enhancing the ability of individuals and organizations to exchange information, travel and import equipment and expertise. Inevitably, the degree to which people are able to benefit from these changes is uneven because there is not an even distribution of the means of connectivity, i.e. infrastructure, education, market access and equipment. This paper reports on both qualitative and quantitative programmes of research aimed at identifying the different uses of ICT in improving connectivity in healthcare in Myanmar, featuring respondents in both the urban centre of Mandalay and in rural areas. The quantitative research will focus on the everyday life of people and the ways in which aspects of connectivity are incorporated within those lives with respect to various aspects of healthcare. The qualitative research will focus on personal interviews with a range of relevant stakeholders in activities relating to healthcare, including healthcare provision, use of medical laboratories, importing of healthcare equipment, pharmaceutical distribution and hospital management. The results of the research are added to already existing knowledge of Myanmar society to illustrate the nature of rapidly changing lives that are inequitably providing previously unavailable opportunities and aspirations. Some policy recommendations are drawn from the analysis.

Keywords: connectivity; healthcare; inequitable change; Myanmar; social change

Spatial Economic Initiatives in Thailand

The proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies have now been published online (http://www.icts13.chiangmai.cmu.ac.th/list_proceeding.php). The proceedings include my paper ‘Spatial Economic Issues in Thailand.’

Abstract:

In common with other mainland Southeast Asian countries, Thailand has historically been dominated by a primate city, Bangkok, in which all principal economic, social, political, religious and monarchical institutions have been concentrated. Awareness of the problems that this concentration has caused
has been recognized in developmental plans since the 1950s, when efforts at decentralization were first introduced. Assisted by improvements in transportation infrastructure made during the Cold War period, initiatives such as the creation of the Northern Region Industrial Estate have been intended to develop other parts of the country to modify migration flows and reduce income inequalities which have become more marked through the years. The Board of Investment has been instrumental in offering incentives to foreign and domestic investors in industrial estates to the north of Bangkok in Pathum Thani and Ayutthaya, where good roads link the places of production with the markets of the capital and the main port of Laem Chabang. Currently, the border special economic
zone policy aims, insofar as its objectives have been coherently stated, to promote development in border regions which can take advantage of cross-border trade and investment. In these efforts, success has usually been achieved when public sector agencies have provided what private sector interests wanted and this is likely to continue in the future. This paper explores the various economic spatial initiatives that have taken place in the country and attempts to analyses when and where these have been successful and what lessons failures have been able to provide.

Keywords: Thailand, special economic zones, economic geography, regional development

Connectivity and the Healthcare Sector in Myanmar

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Announcing: Walsh, John, “Connectivity and the Healthcare Sector in Myanmar,” paper presented at the First Workshop of the Second Phase of ERIA Digital Economy, Innovation, and East Asia’s Competitiveness (January 21st-22nd, Bangkok).

I attended the first workshop of the second phase of ERIA’s project on the Digital Economy, Innovation and East Asia’s Competitiveness at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit Hotel, here in sunny Bangkok earlier this week. It went well. Here is my abstract:

One of the results of the long isolation of Myanmar and its people has been the way in which its healthcare industry has become obsolete and lacking in resources. Although wealthy Myanmar people have been able to travel to Thailand or Singapore for contemporary standards of healthcare for the last few years, this option has not been available for the majority of the people. Instead, they have been required to rely on low-cost options, such as the use of generic pharmaceutical products and traditional remedies, in the absence of affordable and high-quality local services. The issues are compounded by the absence of modern healthcare products, the inability of healthcare staff to learn from overseas sources and the limitations on modern communications on almost any subject. However, this situation is changing as the country is opening to the world and burgeoning connectivity is enhancing the ability of individuals and organizations to exchange information, travel and import equipment and expertise. Inevitably, the degree to which people are able to benefit from these changes is uneven because there is not an even distribution of the means of connectivity, i.e. infrastructure, education, market access and equipment. This paper reports on both qualitative and quantitative programmes of research aimed at identifying the different uses of ICT in improving connectivity in healthcare in Myanmar, featuring respondents in both the urban centre of Mandalay and in rural areas. The quantitative research will focus on the everyday life of people and the ways in which aspects of connectivity are incorporated within those lives with respect to various aspects of healthcare. The qualitative research will focus on personal interviews with a range of relevant stakeholders in activities relating to healthcare, including healthcare provision, use of medical laboratories, importing of healthcare equipment, pharmaceutical distribution and hospital management. The results of the research are added to already existing knowledge of Myanmar society to illustrate the nature of rapidly changing lives that are inequitably providing previously unavailable opportunities and aspirations. Some policy recommendations are drawn from the analysis.

Keywords: connectivity; healthcare; inequitable change; Myanmar; social change

The next workshop is likely to be in Indonesia in April, by which time a draft paper should be available for all participants.

Regulating the Governance of Special Economic Zones in the Greater Mekong Subregion

 

I am back from the International Research Symposium on Public Management in Asia: Innovation and Transformation, which was held at the Education University of Hong Kong. My paper was “Regulating the Governance of Special Economic Zones in the Greater Mekong Subregion.”

Abstract:

 

The countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) (i.e. Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) have all adopted the special economic zone (SEZ) as a means of facilitating their trajectory through the Factory Asia paradigm of import-substituting, export-oriented intensive manufacturing based on low labour cost competitiveness. The SEZs supplement and in some cases supercede the previously built places of development which are industrial estates and industrial parks of various sorts. They offer the benefit of having demonstrated success (as the hundreds of millions of Chinese people raised out of poverty testifies) with a political system that does not require democracy or political pluralism. This is also not required by the international treaties that are in place in ASEAN and in its relationships with trade partners. In terms of governance, each country has introduced new legislation to regulate SEZs and, thereby, encourage further inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and the benefits it is believed that will bring. The range of legislation includes prime ministerial decrees and comprehensive laws aiming to provide all-encompassing treatment of activities. By definition, these regulations apply to specific pieces of territory and not to the remainder of the country. They may also be limited in time, as in Vietnam, where the use of SEZs as a policy experiment is most clearly evident. However, it is not clear that international best practice has been achieved in SEZ governance because each country feels the need to adopt an individual approach to it and each has designed SEZ policy for its own developmental and political goals. These goals range from the need to maintaining good relationships with China in the case of Kyaukphu SEZ in Myanmar to the security issue of migrant workers in Thailand’s proposed border SEZs to the fostering of cross-border activities in the Mohan-Boten zone. This paper examines the different legal frameworks that have been used to regulate SEZs in the GMS and seek to identify which aspects are more useful in attracting FDI and in delivering developmental goals more generally. The paper then goes on to explore the extent to which these regulations may be brought into national usage, which is based on international comparisons.

Keywords: development, governance, Greater Mekong Subregion, policy, special economic zones

Border Economic Zones Linking China with Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam: Categorization and Assessment of Sustainability

I attended the Wenzao Southeast Asia International Conference at Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The paper I gave was “Border Economic Zones Linking China with Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam: Categorization and Assessment of Sustainability.” Here is the abstract:

China’s southern border region has throughout history been diverse, multidimensional and contested. At least some parts of the area belong to the anarchic upland Southeast Asian region some have called Zomia and labelled beyond the reach of the state. However, in recent decades, even the remotest parts are being brought under state control of some sort, although progress is uneven and sometimes unpredictable. China’s One Belt and Road policy will intensify the ability of state agencies to enforce control but, at the moment, a transitional period may be witnessed in which private sector agencies are taking the place of state agents. The private sector has organized a series of different economic systems in the border regions of Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam, ranging from cowboy capitalism that seems to exploit all it touches to formalized economic zones and special economic zones that systematically organize production activities that have become parts of global value chains. The formation and administration of these different systems is affected by the difficult terrain, the antipathy felt by some peripheral ethnic minority groups to the central authority and the actions of transnational organizations such as the Asian Development Bank aiming to link the region together more tightly through building physical infrastructure. This paper documents the different types and scales of economic activities taking place in the three border regions identified and categorizes them. Suggestions are made as to how to promote higher levels of equality and sustainability of the different categories and an assessment is made as to how these activities will, if at all, be incorporated into the more formal state systems that will in due course be put into place.

Keywords: borders, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, special economic zones, Vietnam

I am hopeful of the publication of this paper in a subsequent book or journal from the conference organizers in due course.