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Historical archive

Promising developments in Myanmar

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“Developments in Myanmar give reason to hope for improvements,” commented State Secretary Espen Barth Eide in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He visited Myanmar on 12 and 13 May, where he met the Foreign Minister and the leader of the governing party, in addition to Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of oppositions parties and civil society.

“Developments in Myanmar give reason to hope for improvements,” commented State Secretary Espen Barth Eide in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He visited Myanmar on 12 and 13 May, where he met the Foreign Minister and the leader of the governing party, in addition to Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of oppositions parties and civil society.

Mr Barth Eide’s meeting with Ms Suu Kyi was the first meeting between her and a representative of the Norwegian Government since she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

One of the main topics at this meeting was the political situation in Myanmar and the international community’s response. “Aung San Suu Kyi reiterated her desire to travel to Norway when this becomes possible. She underlined that the regime must demonstrate through its actions that it is making real changes, but felt it was too soon to draw any conclusions. I had the impression that she is manoeuvring carefully through the difficult situation the country is in, and that she and the National League for Democracy face major challenges that they will have to find answers to. Not least in relation to the democratic parties that took part in the election, cooperation with other parts of civil society and the ethnic minorities. It will be a tough task for the traditional democracy movement to find its place and role in the changing political landscape.”

“Although the election process and results were under the control of the regime, we cannot dismiss that real change can come about once a parliament is established, the opposition given more opportunity to express itself, and the army’s direct grip on power is diminished. In rural areas, the power of the regional commanders has been reduced and that of civilian administrative bodies increased. President Thein Sein has shown in several of his speeches that the Government has taken on board some of the challenges it faces. Both economic reform and the country’s extensive environmental problems are issues that the President has raised. Nevertheless, a great deal remains to be done before we can conclude that developments are moving in a democratic direction. There are still more than 2 000 political prisoners. Their release would be the first sign that the new Government and the President are serious. I took this up in my talks with the Foreign Minister and the leader of the governing party,” said Mr Barth Eide.

 
The Norwegian visit coincided with a visit by the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar. Mr Barth Eide raised the question of the UN’s role in Myanmar both with Mr Nambiar and with representatives of UN organisations in the country.

”In my view, the UN organisations, and particularly the UN Development Programme (UNDP) must be given a broader mandate that enables them to work together with the authorities to achieve real poverty reduction,” said Mr Eide Barth Eide, and emphasised that this question will be raised in talks with representatives of the US and the EU.

In addition to meetings with the authorities, Aung San Suu Kyi and the UN, Mr Barth Eide also met representatives of the 11 democratic parties that took part in the election and representatives of civil society. During the visit, it was announced that Norway has withdrawn its advice to Norwegian tourists to refrain from visiting Myanmar.

“I found that the response to this decision was positive in all the talks I had. Clearly it is possible to establish sound and sustainable tourist operations in Myanmar. Greater contact with the rest of the world will have a positive effect on a country that has traditionally been very closed,” commented Mr Eide.

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