Hopes for closer economic ties as Myanmar’s head of government visits Prague

04-06-2019

Czech-Burmese relations are getting closer. That was the main message of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate turned State Counsellor of Myanmar, during her visit to Prague this week. Leading Czech dignitaries have hosted the Burmese head of government with both sides stressing the aim to establish closer business ties as top of the agenda.

Andrej Babiš, Suu Kyi, photo: ČTK/Michaela ŘíhováAndrej Babiš, Suu Kyi, photo: ČTK/Michaela Říhová Ms. Suu Kyi kicked off her one-week trip to Central Europe in Prague this weekend.

On Monday, she met with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and told journalists that ties between their two countries are getting closer.

“It is a pleasure for me to be here in Prague for the second time in about 7 years. I am here especially in order to reopen our embassy in Prague. This is a sign that our relationship with the Czech Republic is getting closer.”

Boosting the relationship could help the Asian state, which only quite recently opened up to the rest of the world.

Despite solid projections for at least the next five years, Myanmar’s economic growth is slowing down according to the World Bank and the country is hoping to attract foreign investment.

This was highlighted when Ms. Suu Kyi pointed to the advantages for the Czech Republic in deepening business cooperation.

“We like to say that Myanmar is the last frontier for economic expansion for Southeast Asia and we hope that will be attractive for the Czech Republic, which is making enormous strides as far as the economy is concerned.”

Czech leaders have been stressing the need to prioritize economic diplomacy in their country’s foreign policy for years and delegations from both countries have in fact been in business negotiations for some time already.

However, Monday’s meeting was the first time talks were held between the two countries’ heads of government.

Aside from closer economic ties, both leaders also agreed on increasing cooperation in the health and education sectors.

Mr. Babiš further stated that humanitarian and development support for Myanmar makes up 10 percent of the Czech Foreign Ministry’s aid budget.

Human rights, an issue for which Myanmar and, since her ascension to power, Ms. Suu Kyi herself, have been criticised for, were discussed too.

Tomáš Petříček, photo: ČTK/Ondřej DemlTomáš Petříček, photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml However, it was clear from Mr. Babiš’s press briefing that the Czech Republic will not set any conditions in this respect for the agreed cooperation to take place.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomáš Petříček, who recently announced a renewed focus on human rights in Czech foreign policy at a speech in the UN building in Geneva, met with the Burmese leader for breakfast on Tuesday morning.

He tweeted afterwards that the Czech Republic is still closely following the situation of human rights in the country and welcomed the release of two Reuter’s journalists there.

The two then attended the bilateral Czech-Myanmar economic forum held in conjunction with the visit.

Ms. Suu Kyi is meeting with President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle on Tuesday afternoon, after which she will travel to Hungary.

04-06-2019

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