Vivian Balakrishnan hopeful for Myanmar's future

BANGKOK - Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan sounded an optimistic note at the end of his introductory visit to Myanmar on Thursday, saying he was “hopeful” about the country’s future.

“There is great potential for national reconciliation and unity of purpose to place Myanmar on a positive trajectory that her people so richly deserve,” he wrote on his Facebook account on Thursday night, at the end of his three-day trip to Naypyidaw and Yangon.

During the visit, he held wide-ranging discussions with Myanmar’s state counsellor and foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi. 

“She is an inspiring figure who has sacrificed so much for her country and wields tremendous moral authority,” he wrote. “She has many challenges during this delicate period of political transition.” 

But he added that Singapore “will continue to help, wherever we can, in Myanmar’s future development.” 

Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party was swept to power during a general election last November (2015), though the military still holds significant power in the former junta-ruled country.

The former political detainee, however, is barred from assuming the role of president under the military drafted Constitution. 

Dr Balakrishnan’s trip was part of a series of a series of high level exchanges to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. 

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is due to visit Myanmar next month (June) to officially launch the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute, a joint development in Yangon located on the grounds of the former Burma Polytechnic. 

During the same trip, Dr Balakrishnan also met commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, education minister 
Myo Thein Gyi, former president Thein Sein, and former Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, who chairs a parliamentary commission for the assessment of legal and special affairs. 

tanhy@sph.com.sg