Myanmar Update

    • By Simon HS0ZIB

    As my internet access is rather unreliable, I thought I’d wish all a very Happy New Year and give an update about my efforts to reactivate XZ land.

    As some may know, I relocated to live and work in Myanmar specifically with the aim of reactivating the country on the amateur bands.  This meant moving away from my wife and family in Thailand, and finding employment in Yangon (Rangoon), so that I qualified for a long-term visa.

    As the government Ministry of Communications in Myanmar politely reminds me, there has been no permanent ‘ham’ in the country since 1964 – there have only been a few DXpeditions and such operations are no longer allowed. The last relevant law relating to amateur radio was issued in 1934.

    My plan for a XZ licence involved building up suitable high level contacts and relationships in the government departments and other important organisations. The issue of an XZ licence would only be made by the Minister himself – no lower employee would dare to make such a decision and no lower person would dare to lend his/her support to my plans, (because if it all goes wrong, then I risk only a short jail term and deportation, whereas a Myanmar national risks a more severe punishment if they are found to be aiding a foreigner in some nefarious activity).  This is why almost no local is willing to help me with my plans!

    I started working in south Myanmar at the beginning of this year, and relocated to Yangon in July.  I now work as a English teacher and also as a lecturer in electronics & telecommunications, (part of my plan…).

    As far as issue of an XZ licence is concerned, the government ministry has no interest at all in ham radio, and they are too busy with the updating of the communications law, (which makes no mention of ham radio), and issue of new mobile radio licences.  So my task is to convince the Minister of the value of ham radio to Myanmar.  I have a two-pronged ‘attack’:

    1 – Demonstrate how the ham radio hobby can instill an interest in electronics and communications amongst young Myanmar people, such that they go on to study these subjects at college – eventually being an asset to the country in it’s efforts to improve the ICT infrastructure. (So this is where my telecoms lecturing comes into play).

    2 – Demonstrate how amateur radio is a valuable asset in the provision of ‘last mile’ communications in times of natural disaster, (such as tsunami, cyclone, earthquake etc – all of which hit Myanmar on a regular basis).  The UN recognises the importance of ham radio in time of disaster and so I am pursuing this angle with my UN contacts in Myanmar.

    To date, I can report a little progress in my endeavours, but over the past year I have learned a lot about the country, it’s language, people and cultures – all of which are greatly helping me with my aims. I should say that Myanmar has a very complex history – both recent and over the past 500 years or so, and this means that some very ‘delicate’ considerations need to be brought into play as far as politics, religion and ethnic groups are concerned.

    Anyway, I remain very hopeful of eventual success with my plans, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for some good news in 2013.

    One point that I’d like to make is that I tried to make contact with the officers of IARU Region 3, to enlist their good advice with my plans.  But alas – I never receive any reply to my emails!  Perhaps someone on this forum can suggest a good contact email address that I can use.

    On another note, I’d like to comment about the IOTA group AS-184, which is the Preparis Channel Group, and never yet activated.

    It was generally assumed that activation of this group was all but impossible, due to the presence of a Chinese military airfield on Great Coco island.  However, my research has revealed that the airfield is not a Chinese base at all, and Myanmar previously allowed Indian government officials to inspect the base, due to their concerns about it’s proximity to the Indian Andaman Islands.  Now, tourist trips by foreigners are allowed to Great Coco, leaving Yangon by ship each month and staying for a few days.

    When I find out the ship timetable, I’ll take a few days off work and go and visit these islands. I understand that there is a local school on the island, which is presumably in need of school books and equipment.  I’ll update you with my progress as and when.