The large-scale shift to telework brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting businesses around the world to explore new avenues to engage with clients and friends. Harris Bricken is no exception, and we are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench.
In Episode #41, we turn our attention to developing events in Myanmar with Robert Walsh, a project manager with deep expertise in the country. We discuss:
- Robert’s trajectory from Burmese studies in the U.S. military to private sector work in Myanmar as the country’s economy opened up.
- The drop in U.S. engagement with Myanmar under the Trump administration and how it emboldened the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military.
- Latest developments following the coup by the Tatmadaw and accompanying detention of civilian leaders.
- Aung San Suu Kyi and the complexities surrounding her iconic figure.
- The Rohingya issue.
- Myanmar’s prospects for growth in the face of Tatmadaw intervention in the economy.
Reading, listening, and watching recommendations from:
- Fragrant oil, rare fungi, big bucks, by Ann Wang (Frontier Myanmar)
This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.
Fred Rocafort 0:07
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business, hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort
Jonathan Bench 0:37
And I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We covered the important, the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.
Fred Rocafort 1:02
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.
The Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar is in the news at this very moment. And we wanted to jump on this topic right away. And today we have with us Robert Walsh, a project manager in Myanmar, who is the person that we need to talk about these issues. Robert, welcome.
Robert Walsh 1:37
It’s nice to be here.
Fred Rocafort 1:39
Robert, when we started talking about Myanmar, our Managing Partner Dan Harris said you have to talk to Robert Walsh, he’s the guy. He’s the person with experience. I think he referred to you as Mr. Myanmar. So please tell us about that experience that you have in Myanmar, including what took you to the country in the first place. I spent quite a bit of time in Asia myself. And I’m always fascinated to hear about the pathways that take Americans and others to do those faraway lands.
Robert Walsh 2:12
Well, as it happens, my engagement with Burma started when I was still in the in the army. My last nine years in the Army, I went to a special unit that had a language requirement. At the time there were not many army linguist who spoke Burmese. As a matter of fact, I think I was one of two people who trained back in the early 1990s. We were fortunate to attend University of Washington’s Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute and have as our professors, John Okell. And ooh, saltoun. John recently passed away. But he is regarded as the the guru of teaching Burmese. And one of the things that he gave all of his students was curiosity and real fondness for Myanmar, when I got out of the army, I went into biotech ended up spending about 12 years in Nanjing, China. And that’s where my association with your law firm started, in that I and Dan Harris had a lot of back and forth on the ground truth of Chinese biotech and pharmaceuticals. However, in 2012, a Korean company I was working with, on and off, asked me to go down to Myanmar for about three months to do an assessment of what was going on in the country. And what was likely to happen after political reforms started under the same same government. So I produced a rather voluminous assessment for the Koreans. And then, in January of 2013, they asked me to go back to Myanmar and working with one of their people there, we opened a general project management shop. So from about 2013, to the present, I’ve been in Myanmar, working on projects from rollout of the mobile phone network, to vaccine delivery to wind power to plantations for endangered species trees. So I have my fingers in way too many pies right now. However, the country has possibilities that people are a lot of fun, even if they’re not as decadent and fun loving as their neighbors the ties, but the projects I have are ongoing and I’m likely to be in the country for at least another five years.
Fred Rocafort 4:40
That’s fascinating and I definitely look forward to delving more into Myanmar itself but I wanted to go back to something you mentioned about your your language training and and how your teacher helped instill in you that appreciation for the country. I’m a former foreign service officer and when Through the State Department’s language school in Virginia, and I can definitely relate to that I was studying Mandarin and frankly, the experience was a bit mixed. We had a lot of instructors and and they were definitely a mixed bag in terms of how they helped us develop or not an appreciation for for the country because of course, we had people from from Taiwan and from the mainland, which which complicated things a little bit. But I I certainly had classmates heading to different places that were able to really develop very meaningful relationships with their instructors. And I could see that that dynamic that that you are describing, I can see how that can really, really make a difference. Obviously, as we record Myanmar is in the is in the news, we’ll go into that very soon. But But before we do that, I was hoping you could give us a sort of lay of the land a scene setter, if you will, about what’s been happening there. And you know, we can we can go back as far as you want. But I think that for me at least one useful departure point would be the Obama administration and that period of certain hopefulness when it came to Myanmar, he went there walked around in his socks, polishing the floor at the pagoda there, I was just reminiscing about that recently. At that moment, things seem to be on the up and up for the country. I went there for the first time in 2016 was impressed really enjoyed going there was one of my favorite places for me to go as part of my beat in that part of the world, went back there the year after and was able to see in the span of one year, quite a bit of development and change. And overall, I just thought this was a very promising plays. And then not too long after that. There were a number of things that started happening that made me sour, a little bit on the country, even though I was looking at it as an outsider, but I was probably not the only one. So so perhaps could you just take us through what’s been happening there in the past few years.
Robert Walsh 7:07
Yeah, as it happens, President Obama visited Myanmar twice, the first time in November 2012. And then the second time in November 2014. And I believe that Secretary of State Clinton also visited at least once, and this was kind of a reward for the military finally exceeding to having elections, the elections were held in 2015. But with the visits of Hillary Clinton and President Obama, people started to take me on more seriously. And more importantly, Myanmar, people themselves, started taking themselves seriously. They had been on a very long Rip Van Winkle type sleep from 1962 to 2012, with all kinds of disasters in between, but the government deciding to allow elections, and also to allow Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy to participate. That was, that was quite a big thing. At the same time, President Obama was willing to look at lifting sanctions. And by October of 2016, all of the sanctions had been revoked. And that made a big difference. Although it took a couple of years, banking between American banks and Myanmar banks was damn near impossible to move any money back and forth. But what was funny in 2012, and 2013, was when we had all kinds of get rich, quick, fast buck carpetbagger types showing up in Myanmar, believing that it was the next big thing in believing that there was, you know, money to be made anywhere. Well, it’s not exactly that way. They’re these kind of people showing up from about 2012 to 2014. They thought, yeah, the streets would be paved with gold. But the fact is, once they actually got there, they discovered that not only were the streets not paved, they weren’t paved with gold. And what’s more than Myanmar people were expecting them to do the paving for them. It probably took until about 2015 before we cleared these kind of people out of the country. Yeah, there’s money to be made in Myanmar, but you’re going to have to work pretty damned hard for it. Politically, I would have to say that the election of Donald Trump pretty much brought the end of any political process within the country, if not to a plateau, then to a pretty precipitous drop. All of the upward progress that had been made under the Obama administration pretty quickly stopped in 2017 And Myanmar kind of fell off the US government’s map. Since Trump was elected. I don’t think we’ve had a single senior administration official visit the country. I believe that when Trump was meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Matt Pottenger, flew up for a day or two, but since then I don’t believe anybody of note from the administration came out. Now, the Myanmar military for its part felt that they were empowered and had permission to go ahead and kick off on the Muslim Rohingya in in Rakhine State. And why not? Trump doesn’t like brown Muslims. They don’t like brown Muslims. They feel that the Rohingya are actually illegal aliens. And we all know how Trump’s administration feels about them. So I would say politically, the progress stopped, the foreign investment remained steady, the Myanmar government, Myanmar Investment Committee got better and better, it became easy to register and administer company and it got easier to move money in and out. So two tracks, economy investment, and then on the other side, political The two were not matching. That’s kind of how I would set the scene leading up to the most recent election on November 8 of 2020.
Fred Rocafort 11:35
So what’s happened since then? What’s going on? Right now there’s, I think, a threshold question to consider is, can we really describe what’s happened this a coup, and if that’s the case, what exactly triggered it what has happened since since those elections,
Robert Walsh 11:51
the 2015 elections went by smoothly and quietly, I was in Yangon for the November 2015 elections. And it was about like Salt Lake City on a Sunday morning. That’s how quiet and orderly things were. Generally everybody accepted the election results. Although the foreign embassies had multiple teams of polling place observers out, I actually hosted the Americans way up and kitchen stayed at hotel. So I think everybody was satisfied that for its first election in several decades, it was a good election. Now for 2020 elections, remember that we had COVID going on. And the Myanmar Ministry of Health and the government in general handled the response to COVID pretty well, I can’t really fault him on anything that they did. However, as part of social distancing, they could not run polling places the way they had done previously, for whatever reason, the military affiliated party, the union solidarity Development Party, usdp felt that they should have done much better in the election. According to the Constitution, 25% of the assembly seats are supposed to go to the military. But in the election, the military did not achieve that. I believe that the NLD actually got I think 83% and the military felt slighted and taking another page from Donald Trump, the best that they could do was allege widescale voter fraud on the order of nearly 11 million instances of voter fraud. That’s kind of hard to do in that country. At any rate, starting in late November of last year. The army started rumbling about this. And unfortunately, I have to tell you, I wasn’t following it very closely, because I didn’t take it very seriously. At the time. However, in early January of this year, the army started getting more and more vocal about not accepting the results of the election. And perhaps maybe they ought to think about stepping in and taking over. I don’t know how seriously, the foreign embassies and observers outside of Myanmar took this kind of grumbling myself, I took it pretty seriously. Because the Myanmar army doesn’t normally do this kind of thing in unless they are intending to act in some way. And nevertheless, about midnight. Last night, I started getting calls from Myanmar. I’m in Bellingham right now, but I started getting calls from all of my teammates, scattered all over Myanmar telling me what was going on. And for the people, it was quite a shock. And not only was it kind of a shock, the young people who work for me, are at least old enough to remember what level was like under the military and how bad the economy was. So they know that there’s a lot at stake if the country loses a year to the military. As of this morning, the military had announced that there will be a one year long emergency government, in addition to detaining NLD leaders all over the country, and not only a napi, Dawn young gun, but all over, they intend to run some sort of emergency government for a year. And then what happens after that? I don’t know. I would say it’s going to take us a good week before things become a little clearer. I can speculate, though.
Fred Rocafort 15:41
We’d welcome that. That speculation. And perhaps in order to frame it, let me ask you this. Do you think that the long term or let’s say medium term plan is to get people to quote unquote, reassess their choices and perhaps set the stage for a new election in a year’s time that hopefully from the point of view of the military gives them the results that they feel are fair, maybe, you know, taking a cue from, from our own issues here, right, maybe, maybe that that way they can, they can stop the steel, if they have another election in a year’s time?
Robert Walsh 16:20
The fact is that the parallels between what’s been going on in the United States and Myanmar are, are to stark to ignore, had it not been for the COVID-19. And had it not been for the fact that generally everybody in Myanmar feels that the NLD government has done a very good job on that going into the election, if it were not for COVID, perhaps the military would have done a bit better. The military itself stood aside from the the COVID-19 response. They helped when they were asked, and, you know, their their help was welcome. But they allow the civilian side of the government to go ahead and take care of things. And they did a very good job. That having been said, at the same time, we’re at not for COVID people were somewhat dissatisfied with the nlds handling of the economy. They weren’t so dissatisfied, that they would welcome the military stepping in to handle it. That has historical precedent twice in the 1950s. The military was asked by the civilian government to step in and help reform the economy. And the first time it happened 18 months later, General ne when handed the government back, but in 62, when he took over, it was for good. The problem here is weren’t not for COVID actually, the military might have gotten their seats 25% and more quite handily.
Fred Rocafort 17:58
So in other words, the handling of COVID by the government appears to have been from what you said they’ve they’ve handled the the crisis. Well, and and then So what you’re saying is that that actually helped bolster their showing in the in the elections the fact that the government the the MDL actually did a good job with with COVID.
Robert Walsh 18:20
Yeah, it did. I came back from Myanmar in early August number one to vote or make sure that my Washington State ballot got in to pay taxes and to do other admin stuff. Little did I know that the COVID situation in the states would get bad enough that maybe only three countries on earth want Americans to visit. And on the Myanmar side, in my Township, the township government told my teammates like, you know, this guy better not come back until he’s either vaccinated, or America somehow gets its act together with COVID. But as of August, Myanmar had had about 300 cases and only six deaths, people were compliant. The public health information campaign conducted by the government was good, accurate and timely and just about everybody in the country, regardless of what language they spoke knew the basics of what it would take to bring the virus under control. So everybody was proud of that. Now, Myanmar did have its second wave when the new mutations started coming in. That having been said the NLD did not do a bad job of handling things. Most Myanmar people feel that the government is truthful in the case of COVID-19. And, you know, with Myanmar people will be compliant with social distancing, hand washing, and the other measures that it takes.
Fred Rocafort 19:53
We could probably have a an episode that dedicated entirely to to this particular issue of COVID but couple of things that that really jumped at me while I listen to you talking about how things were handled in Myanmar. One thing that that strikes me is how in places like Myanmar and other places that are also underdeveloped people do seem to be taking it taking COVID very seriously. And I almost wonder if there is something there, right, like maybe people who understand how bad things can get when you get sick, right, like people who experience perhaps in their lifetimes, the pain, right, the trauma of seeing a family member, get sick, and then perhaps not being able to do anything about it, right, or perhaps having to deal with it with a substandard health system. I wonder if that actually helps develop a consciousness in people. And then you contrast that to a lot of what’s been been happening here, and essentially, this absolute lack of consciousness that some people have have exhibited. And I wonder if there might be something to that, right. The fact that people in poorer countries and even here in the US, I think within some of the traditionally disadvantaged communities, you see some of that behavior, right? People who say, Look, I don’t want to get sick, I know that things often don’t go well, when you get sick. So let me let me just try to avoid that in the in the first place. So I wonder if there’s something there.
Robert Walsh 21:23
You know, in the case of Myanmar, and Myanmar isn’t alone in this, but it’s very effective, very timely, and very accurate and believable public health information from a government that by and large, people trust, that paired with the fact that Myanmar people are very charitable, and then they have a great deal of respect for social responsibility. All of those tend to make things work pretty well. Myanmar does have even for a poor country, and exceedingly high literacy rate. But the fact is, in August, as I was leaving, I tried an experiment and walking down the street in the morning, I would stop a elementary or junior high school student and say, Tell me all about COVID. What do I got to know? And these kids would give me a five minute instruction on what COVID is, where it came from? And what do I got to do to avoid it? How do I know I got it? These kids had it all. And it was it was the the latest information available as of that week. Contrast that with here in Bellingham, where everybody I meet who is my own age, which is past 60, no two people I meet have the same set of facts about COVID-19. And all of them are unanimous and telling me that they don’t know who to believe or what to believe. And that points to massive failure of leadership and public health information in this country. And we have no excuse for that.
Fred Rocafort 22:57
Those are fascinating reflections. There’s so much there that we could talk about kind of taking a step back and focusing once again on the on the political situation. I’d like to talk a little bit about Aung San Suu Kyi, and I I know I butchered that. So my apologies.
Robert Walsh 23:16
Fred Rocafort 23:17
Okay. I did spend some time on Forvo trying to trying to get that right. I must have missed, thank you for that. But here here’s a figure that for for such a long time has has been representative of Myanmar’s struggle for democracy. You know, she was I forgot to write but she might have been, you know, Times Person of the Year. She was just an icon. Right. And then she managed to enter government and being in government is complicated, right. It’s a lot easier to to be on the outside criticizing a government that to find yourself in that position. But I think with with her, it was a little more than that. I think that, especially with the human rights issues with the Rohingya, as I recall there, there was disappointment, perhaps and her lack of involvement, or perhaps even more than that, right. I think that really, I think accounted for a lot of that. disenchantment, but overall, I guess, one could say that or flower, you know, faded somewhat after she went mainstream, if you will, are those criticisms of her fair? Or perhaps we had an excessively optimistic view of her in the West as you went into into government, or is she simply doing the best she can under the shadow of the military?
Robert Walsh 24:40
It’s a pretty good question. But the fact is that elections are not she still had to manage the military. The military still had 25% of the seats in the assembly. The military still had a huge chunk of the budget. And of course, they always had that great big stick laying back In the corner if they needed to use it, that having been said she’s you know, never been slow to, to be vocal about something she really feels strongly about. She is a very stubborn person and that’s good. You can’t be in lockdown in jail and detention for that long and not be stubborn. The fact is that she and most ethnic Myanmar look at the Rohingya problem, the same way that a lot of people in the United States look at our illegal immigration problem. This goes back a long way and historians on the question might fault may for my memory. But people forget that back in 1971, there was a war between East and West Pakistan that led to the Pakistan Army from the west going to what is today Bangladesh and basically going on a spree of massacring the opposition after the opposition won an election. During that time in 1971, you had 10 million refugees go into India, and you had 2 million come into Myanmar. Now. Indira Gandhi at the time, had to send the Indian Army into Bangladesh to put paid to the Pakistani army and what it was doing, but mainly, she was worried about 10 million refugees in India. Now Myanmar at the end of the war between East and West Pakistan, you know, still had these 2 million refugees in Rakhine State, they are Bangladeshi. They do not speak a language called Rohingya. They speak Chittagong in Bengali. So the average Myanmar and I say ethnic Myanmar believes that these people are descendants of people who never had legal status in Myanmar. Myanmar law is very clear about how long your family must have lived in Myanmar before you can attain full citizenship. And I believe it’s about three generations. This is not a new law, this law goes back to the 1940s. Throughout the 70s 80s and 90s. The Burmese have tried to push these people back into Bangladesh with very little success. But in the 1990s UNHCR got involved and you know, these people kind of had a foot in Myanmar. And the way most Myanmar’s look at it and the way Aung San Suu Kyi looks at it a this is first and foremost an internal matter. And B, it’s a matter of who is and who is not a Myanmar citizen. However, the Myanmar army, the Tatmadaw probably felt empowered to go ahead and act on this kind of thinking after Donald Trump was elected, again, for all the reasons I’ve given before. But this thing has gone on, at least since the 90s is since I first became involved in the country, I see the Myanmar side of it, I see the Rohingya side of it. But what I see at least on the Myanmar side is real stubbornness. And generally a lack of concern of what the rest of the world thinks.
Fred Rocafort 28:13
That was actually very educational. I mean, I’ve heard a lot about this topic. But I think you did a great job there of framing the roots of the problem. In particular, I didn’t realize that that it had this connection to the partition of Pakistan, right, when Bangladesh became an independent nation. That’s really interesting. And you also raise a very important point, which is that these issues are not unique to to Myanmar, right. I mean, ultimately, even though perhaps things don’t get to the level that they get over there. We have these conversations here, countries in Europe are having this debates as well, right. And ultimately, as a as an outsider, you can have a different perspective. But it’s also very important to understand how the people in Myanmar are looking at this, trying to end on a more positive note earlier, you alluded to the possibilities that Myanmar presents and this is something that I thought when I went there for work comparing Myanmar to some of the other nations in, in Southeast Asia, at least when I went through it was hard to go there and not come away with a feeling of, of optimism about what the country might achieve. If you look at the population, it’s it’s not inconsiderable, at least in my line of work. I was beginning to see how some of the companies that were doing manufacturing in places like Vietnam, were beginning to push some of the lower end manufacturing to Myanmar right. So it’s easy to see the trajectory that the country could follow towards becoming a manufacturing powerhouse. So where does the country go from here? I mean, obviously, it seems as if the short term is going to be turbulent. But assuming that things can can become stable and that the country can get on some sort of half forward. What do you see as the economic future of the country, maybe give perhaps a little bit of your own perspective on on what the country might be able to achieve.
Robert Walsh 30:16
In 2012, we had the first ever Myanmar Business Forum. And I believe Steve Dickinson from your Qingdao office came down. And so we spent some time together. But we had an Italian real estate guy who made the observation very early on that economic progress in Myanmar would look more like Vietnam, slow, shallow, steady upward. Over the course of about 20 years, I think he was right. And most of us who had already had experience in the country, kind of agreed with him, there wasn’t going to be a boom like Shenzhen, or Tianjin or, you know, a place like that. Unfortunately, what the military has done by this action this morning is, as we would say, back in Arkansas, they’ve gone and peed in the chili. The fact is that they did so not understanding that it would have a very, very serious dampening effect on foreign investment. You don’t build bridges, railroads, ports, you don’t do that thing in Myanmar without a lot of foreign investment. Unless it’s Chinese money, which honestly does not give a damn about democracy. Unless it’s Chinese money, you’re not going to be getting that money. Now. I know that many companies and many nations that are thinking and putting sovereign wealth into Myanmar are definitely rethinking those plans. And then the case of companies either doing foreign direct investment or joint ventures, if they had second thoughts before. Fortunately, most of their agreements have some kind of force majeure clause in that they are now fully thinking about putting into effect in order to get out. The military doesn’t understand how much economic damage they can do in as little as a year in terms of destroying investor confidence.
Fred Rocafort 32:15
One thought on this, I’ve been listening to a great podcast on the southern tour that then Xiaoping took to Shenzhen and other places in the south. You might might be familiar with that, from your time in China. I think one of the themes that is present in in recent Chinese history is this idea that say what you will about the Chinese Communist Party, there are at least some elements within it that kind of get it and you know, certainly then Xiaoping comes off as as the the best example of this attitude, right, that there are certain things that just have to be done. And whatever troubles they might have at the present, you need to look beyond that think of the future and maybe in some cases, provide that sort of strong guiding hand to make sure that economic development takes place. But just to confirm from from what you’re describing, it does not appear that the the military in Myanmar is really, that doesn’t appear to be their role, right from what you’re describing. It’s not as if they’re going to be ushering in any economic reform or anything like that.
Robert Walsh 33:20
No, the economic reforms and the new laws that have come out over the past, let’s say five to eight years have been drafted with a lot of foreign help. You have to remember that back in 1996, starting about in the military did its level best to destroy the education system. And it really shows and Aung San Suu Kyi herself realizes that getting the education system back to what it was is going to be a generational undertaking. As for the military, you know, their military guys, I do know a couple of Tatmadaw men who have been to Johns Hopkins syce. But I don’t know anybody that has been to the Wharton School of Business or you know, something like that. The military does have its own business conglomerates, and those are run okay. There, they are all profitable, but none of them are contributing anything to the national purse. The they’re running their own mobile phone system with the Vietnamese military. It’s the fourth operator might tell. But I do not think that the military is capable of undertaking economic reform over the whole country. They certainly aren’t going to be able to achieve such a thing in a year. You know, progress is going to be generational, and it’s going to be a slow, uphill progress. It’s not going to be a get rich, quick place at all.
Fred Rocafort 34:52
Well, Robert, it’s been a fascinating conversation. I’d like to thank you as we do all guests, but especially for coming on. on such short notice and for allowing us to produce very timely content really grateful for that. before we let you go, I’d like to ask you for any recommendations you might have for our listenership?
Robert Walsh 35:15
I would say still very relevant today. Back in the 1980s, you had a Swedish writer Bertil lintner. At that time, I think he was with Far Eastern Economic Review. But he did a series of books on Myanmar that are still very relevant, especially focusing on the 1988 strikes and riots that led to an even harsher military crackdown. Umberto Lindner, any of his books would be worth reading for someone who wants to take a deep dive into the country, current journalism. The nice thing about journalism over the last seven years is that although they do practice some self censorship, we do have English language journals in Myanmar that are quite good. Myanmar Times being one and Frontier Myanmar being way better to a very good journal that comes out daily. Thomas Kean is the editor and you know, he’s managed to keep body and soul together. Frontier Myanmar is worth reading right now, at least until the military walks into his office and takes all of his stuff.
Fred Rocafort 36:29
As it happens, the recommendation that I had myself was was an article from Frontier Myanmar and the publication more generally. And to be completely honest, this was a discovery that I made, as I prepared for this interview. But I have to completely endorse that last recommendation, from what I’ve been able to see it is it is a very good publication. And frankly, I have to say, I wish that there was something like that for every country in the region, right? Because there are countries where it’s very hard to get good English content. So this definitely a great project. And as I was doing my research, I found an article that mentions you. And the title of it is fragrant oil, rare fungi and big bucks. Written by Anne Wong, and we’re gonna be putting up a link, as we always do in our blog posts. But that was a great read. So I felt like that that was something that had to be shared.
Robert Walsh 37:29
Yeah. Anne Wong came up there in the spring of 2016, the Rwanda, nationality was having a homecoming. And so we invited her up for that there are a small ethnic group of about 65,000 people, their home is puto district. I have several working for me. As a matter of fact, some of their families are here in Bellingham and Oak Harbor. But by way of signing off, though, I will say that until I got out of the army and went to China, and then I went back to Burma, I did not appreciate lawyers, and I did not appreciate journalists as much as I should have. Since being in Myanmar this time, there is literally not a damn day that goes by that I’m not engaged on, you know, my opinion being sought on, you know, some law that’s being drafted, be it for forestry or for land use, or something like that. But I did not appreciate how important lawyers and the law is until I was in a country that’s trying to finally write some laws instead of what they got, which is a mishmash of British colonial law, and military band aids and muggings on paper so to speak. But anyway, I appreciate the work that lawyers do in trying to make their way straight. And your firm has been a great help to me over the years and making sense of what I was doing in China.
Fred Rocafort 38:59
Even before I joined the firm I had read about you in the in the China Law Blog. So So I know that the relationship is is a long standing one. So thank you for those kind words. And thank you again for being on the podcast. We look forward to having you again before too long to discuss the next set of developments in Myanmar.
Robert Walsh 39:17
Well, I’m waiting to find out what the military will do with people coming and going. Last word this morning was that all flights in and out of Myanmar had been canceled until May but I’ve yet to get a confirmation of that. I’m due to get a second shot of the Moderna vaccine on the 26th and it had been my plan to be on the first thing smoking back there because being away this long and having so many projects up in the air. They’re worried over there and and I’m worried here but everything that’s happened over the last 24 hours has made that far more critical that I get back there.
Fred Rocafort 39:57
Well we’ve managed to work with with guests All over the world. So finding a time that’s suitable for you over there and for us here might be slightly challenging, but I’m sure we can do it. So definitely look forward to that second round.
Robert Walsh 40:11
Yeah, let me say that the one thing and Myanmar that has, you know, met all of its technical promises is telecommunications. That having been said, yeah, we’ll be able to talk from Myanmar
Fred Rocafort 40:25
Look forward to it.
Jonathan Bench 40:30
We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode, we look forward to connecting with you on social media to continue discussing developments in global law and business. This podcast was produced by Harris Bricken, with executive producer Madeline Williams music composed by Steven Schmidt. Tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai