Singapore carriers exploring possibility of multi-city flights within Myanmar

Singapore is looking to introduce multi-city flights within Myanmar by its carriers Singapore Air or Silkair, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on June 8, 2016.
Singapore is looking to introduce multi-city flights within Myanmar by its carriers Singapore Air or Silkair, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on June 8, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON - Singapore is looking to introduce multi-city flights within Myanmar by its carriers Singapore Air or Silkair, as part of a series of ways the two countries can cooperate more closely.

PM Lee Hsien Loong gave these updates on Wednesday (June 8) at a reception with Singaporeans in Yangon at Sedona Hotel, built by Singapore developer Keppel Land.

These "stopover flights" from Singapore through Yangon or Mandalay would benefit tourists.

"When people come as tourists they can come to Yangon, stop over for a couple of days, get back onto the next aeroplane, go on to Mandalay and then go home," he said, calling it a more attractive network of connections.

The 49 direct flights a week between Singapore and Myanmar are international, with flights to and from Singapore and Mandalay or Singapore and Yangon.

PM Lee said the Myanmar government is keen to work with Singapore to improve connectivity.

Both sides have also been discussing potential ideas that can improve things for their peoples and business communities, he said. "They listened to me. Some of this will move, some of the others they will still study."

A key announcement on Tuesday was visa-free travel between Singapore and Myanmar for 30-day trips by their citizens. It will take effect on Dec 1, 2016.

PM Lee told the 300 Singaporeans at the reception: "I hope when your family members come back and forth it'll be more convenient for them, they won't have to apply for a visa, and you'll keep in touch with home more often."

The Singaporean community in Myanmar has grown from 150 a decade ago to at least 500 now.

It looks set to soar as Myanmar is opening up and is "an adventurous place to be in'', PM Lee noted.

"Not everything is solved yet, so there's some uncertainty...but that's what it means to be on the frontier. We need Singaporeans to be out there, finding new opportunities and doing well," he added.

Agreeing, Mr Lim Chong Chong, 38, group chief financial officer in a Myanmar company, told The Straits Times: "There are a lot of jobs and business opportunities in Myanmar for Singaporeans, but many are scared off by their negative impressions of the country."

He cheered the visa exemption, saying: "It will make life easier, not having to keep going to the embassy to get a visa."

Mr Lim flies home every weekend to be with his wife and one-year-old child in Singapore.

Earlier on Wednesday, PM Lee had several meetings in Naypyitaw.

At Union Parliament building, he separately met Lower House Speaker Win Myint and Mr Mahn Win Khaing Than, the Upper House and Parliament Speaker.

They affirmed the strong ties between their peoples and parliaments, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

The two Myanmar leaders also expressed their appreciation to PM Lee for Singapore's support of their country's human resource development.

PM Lee later met the commander-in-chief of Myanmar's armed forces Min Aung Hlaing.

They discussed regional and international development, and bilateral cooperation in human resource development and security.

Before flying to Naypyitaw, PM Lee had tea with former president Thein Sein, whose Union Solidarity and Development Party previously ruled Myanmar.