Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Myanmar President to undertake state visit to Philippines

Myanmar President Thein Sein will be in Manila for a two-day state visit next week, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

Thein Sein, whom Philippine President Benigno Aquino III invited to visit,  will be in the country from December 4 to 6, a DFA statement said.

This will be the first visit to the Philippines by a Myanmar leader since the former military-ruled state undertook reforms in 2010. The last state visit by a Myanmar head of state was by Prime Minister Soe Win in 2005.

The Philippines has been one of the harshest critics of the military junta that formerly ruled Myanmar, aggressively calling for the nation’s democratization and the release of thousands of political prisoners then led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Western nations led by Europe and the US have imposed tough financial and economic sanctions against the former Myanmar regime since the 1990s amid allegations of gross human rights violations and failure to heed its call to institute democratic reforms.

But Thein Sein, a former junta general who was appointed president of Myanmar to head a nominally civilian government following a rare election in 2010, stunned the international community by embarking on a surprising array of reforms that included the release of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi - a move that earned instant recognition from its staunchest critics like the United States.

The DFA said Aquino and Thein Sein will discuss issues of mutual concern, particularly in the areas of trade and investment, agriculture, energy, cultural exchanges and information cooperation.

They will also take up regional issues, including Myanmar’s historic chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2014.

Apart from the Philippines and Myanmar, ASEAN comprises Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

The two leaders had their first bilateral meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on June 7, 2013, when Aquino attended the World Economic Forum on East Asia hosted by Myanmar.
Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Myanmar was established in 1956.

In response to an international call for aid to typhoon-ravaged Philippines, Myanmar donated seven tons of relief goods and $100,000. - GMA News

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