I deem it an honour and pleasure to have this opportunity to participate in the historic meeting of Heads of Government of the ten Southeast Asian nations. I would also like to express our deep appreciation to the host country, the Government and people of Thailand for the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to us and for the excellent arrangements made for this meeting.
The end of the Cold War has brought new prospects and new challenges. It has also imparted new dimensions, new trends and new directions in the relations between states as well. One of the new features has been the impetus for more cooperation and consolidation among the nations of the different regions in the world. In this regard, we are happy to note that our region, Southeast Asia, is taking the lead. Peace, tranquility and solidarity among the nations of the region is achieving heights never attained before in history. It is indeed heartening to be in the midst of all the Leaders of Southeast Asia who are gathered here for the first time with a common aspiration to work together for a future of peace, progress and prosperity in the region.
In fact, Southeast Asia continues to enjoy relative peace and stability while some parts of the world are still entangled with conflicts and instabilities. As political stability goes hand in hand with economic development the economies of the countries in the region continue to register a relatively high growth rate. These positive factors are attributed to the trend of ever increasing cooperation among nations in Southeast Asia with ASEAN in the forefront. To further complement this, a development strategy is to be drawn up to enable to share technology among Southeast Asian nations within the framework of South-South cooperation.
Myanmar, as a Southeast Asian country, maintains friendly relations with all the countries in the region with a strong commitment to achieve regional peace and stability. When ASEAN was founded in 1967, Myanmar was not able to join the Association due to prevailing circumstances at that time though she enjoys close and cordial relations with all ASEAN members. However, since that time, the end of the Cold War has brought about fundamental changes in inter-state relations. At the same time, the introduction of political and economic reforms in Myanmar characterized by the transformation from the centrally planned economy to a market-oriented economy, and the building of a multi-party democratic society, has created conditions for more dynamic cooperation with ASEAN. With this in mind we have acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation during the last ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Brunei. We hope that Myanmar will be accorded observer status in the Association at the forthcoming AMM Meeting in 1996.
We are pleased to note that since its inception 28 years ago ASEAN has grown in number as well as in areas of cooperation. As all ten countries of Southeast Asia have now become signatories to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, which marks the beginning of a new chapter in the relations among countries in Southeast Asia, it is hoped that a genuinely harmonious, peaceful and prosperous Southeast Asia – 10 under one roof will come into existence in the not too distant future.
The solidarity that we speak of is one of unity in diversity. We have a common vision of shared destiny but we must also realize that each of our own countries have their own unique features, unique background and unique culture. However, it is our belief that this very diversity can lend greater cohesion and greater strength. By bringing together individual resilience, we can also bring about stronger unity. At the same time, the relations between the nations of the region must be based on mutual respect, understanding and equality. If there is to be a genuine cohesion, there cannot be two Southeast Asia, one for certain countries and another for others, who may have different backgrounds or levels of development. Myanmar is confident that if we all work together in unity, the essentials are already there for our region to play a significant role in the world at large. Myanmar looks forward also to contribute towards regional development.
Myanmar with a population of 45 million and a total land area of over 260,000 square miles has abundant natural resources. Based upon these potentials, we in Myanmar are building a new modern developed nation, while preserving and safeguarding at the same time its cultural heritage and national character. We are taking determined strides in economic development in our efforts to catch up with our neighbours in Southeast Asia in promoting the living standards of our people. In doing so we have laid down political, economic and social objectives corresponding to our prevailing circumstances and future needs.
As such, a new modern developed nation is to be established in accordance with the new State Constitution which is now in the process of discussion leading to drafting. Since Myanmar is a Union of more than a hundred different national races, national reconsolidation constitutes one of the most important political objectives. Development of agriculture as the base and all-round development of other economic sectors is one of the economic objectives. With the evolution of market-oriented economic system, technical know-how and investments are to be invited while the initiative to shape the national economy is to be kept in the hands of the State and national peoples. Myanmar’s relations with all countries in the world are conducted in accordance with these objectives. Being a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence form the basis of Myanmar’s foreign policy and are firmly adhered to as principal guidelines in its international relations. These principles also accordingly guide Myanmar in its relations at bilateral and regional levels with Southeast Asian countries, which composed of members of ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement.
We are now approaching the end of the twentieth century as we prepare ourselves for a new era of regional integration. I believe that Southeast Asia will become the most dynamic and promising region in the world in no time if we strive, individually and collectively, to promote peaceful cooperation among ourselves on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit and exert all efforts to create a true Southeast Asian community in accordance with the principles of self-determination, sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of nations. On our part, we will actively contribute our share with a firm determination to meet new challenges in the twenty first century in the process of regional and global integration.
In conclusion, may I once again express my profound gratitude to the Government and people of Thailand for the warm reception accorded to us throughout our stay in Thailand and for the tireless efforts made for this meeting to be successful.