NAYPYITAW, 21 February 2012

Myanmar will “seriously consider” allowing observers from ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat during the April by-elections, said Myanmar President Thein Sein.

“We will seriously consider having observers from ASEAN, and the ASEASN Secretariat during the April elections,” he told visiting ASEAN Secretary-General, Dr Surin Pitsuwan.

The two leaders agreed that such a move will boost transparency, which will add to the international goodwill that Myanmar had attracted so far.

In a relaxed meeting which lasted more than an hour—well beyond the half an hour originally scheduled—the President spoke confidently of the country’s vision.

“Job creation is our top priority. We want to create as many jobs as we can, so Myanmar workers can work in the country, and ease the burden on our neighbouring countries like Thailand and Malaysia,” he said, adding that plans for a deep sea port, as well as special industrial zones, are already in the pipeline to meet the objective of job creation.

The President also concurred with Dr Surin’s suggestion that the Irrawaddy Delta area be developed as the next “Rice Bowl” of the world.

“Our population stands at 60 million now, and it is projected to hit 100 million in 20 years. We are certainly looking to develop the rice production capacity of the Delta area, as that will contribute realty to food security now only for our country, but also the world,” the President continued.

Echoing similar upbeat sentiment, Myanmar’s Minister for Information and Culture Kyaw Hsan said: “We are not going back. We are going forward.”

Minister Kyaw Hsan added that plans and preparations are underway to make sure Myanmar is ready for the 2013 Southeast Asia Games, as well as chairing the ASEAN Meetings in 2014.

He agreed with Dr Surin that Myanmar can tap the experience of the ASEAN family and the ASEAN Secretariat in hosting major events and meetings.

SGVM

The sense of confidence and determination is also captured in Dr Surin’s meeting with Mr Tin Naing Thein, Myanmar’s Minister for National Planning and Economic Development.

Nothing that reforms had been smooth in the country, the Minister said political change in Myanmar is on track, and is ready to take off fully.

One area which Myanmar has promised full cooperation, is the provision of economic data to what Dr Surin described as “to fill in the blank” in ASEAN’s economic report.

The country’s Foreign Minister, Mr Wunna Maung Lwin, also gave his assurance that Myanmar is ready and willing to cooperate with the rest of the ASEAN family, in meeting its commitment to the region. But he also reminded some nations that the lifting of sanctions will help matters a lot more. “Myanmar is keen to create employment and jobs to help its people. Many countries also said they are keen to help us. Statements and pronouncements have been made, but actual changes are needed now,” he urged.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan is leading a delegation from the ASEAN Secretariat on a four-day visit to Myanmar. The trip is to hold discussions with senior Myanmar officials, to find ways for Myanmar and the ASEAN Secretariat to explore cooperation, attachments, internships and workshops to help Myanmar prepare for the major events.

Across the board officials that Dr Surin met are excited and determined that Myanmar will successfully host its regional, as well as international partners and media.

“All ASEAN activities are fully open to Myanmar now. Myanmar’s determination, and the assistance of ASEAN and our dialogue partners, will ultimately determine the pace and intensity of Myanmar’s integration into ASEAN and the world,” said Dr Surin, summing up the meetings on the first day.