Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Myanmar - Singapore, Myanmar 'old friends, important partners', says PM Lee Hsien Loong

Visa waiver among agreements reflecting close links, cooperation between the 2 nations.

Singaporeans travelling to Myanmar will no longer need to apply for a visa from Dec 1.

The two countries have eased visa requirements for their citizens.

It was one of several announcements made yesterday, the first day of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's official visit to Myanmar.

Singapore has invited Myanmar officials, including Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, to visit the country to learn more about its education policies and how it builds and operates hawker centres.

It will also sponsor short internships for top graduates of the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute in Yangon, which trains Myanmar youth to be skilled workers.

The agreements underscored closer links and cooperation between Singapore and Myanmar, whose new civilian government came to power last November.

PM Lee, the first head of government to visit since, said Myanmar "is not only an old friend, but also an important partner" for Singapore.

"Over the last decade, during Myanmar's transition to democracy, we have walked alongside Myanmar," he said at a dinner hosted by President Htin Kyaw at the presidential palace in Naypyitaw.

Agreeing, Mr Htin Kyaw thanked Singapore for its "wholehearted and continuous support". He also said bonds between both countries have strengthened in working towards an Asean Community.

Singapore and Myanmar, which celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties this year, have strong historical links and bonds between their people, said PM Lee, tracing their common past to the days when both were under British rule.

Today, Singaporeans live and work in Myanmar, and Myanmar citizens also contribute to Singapore society, he said.

At meetings with Myanmar's top leaders yesterday, PM Lee said Singapore will continue to support Myanmar's development by sharing its expertise where possible.

He added that he was very happy to see Myanmar's progress in political and economic development. "We wish you well and we look forward to continuing to be of help in a modest way," he said.

PM Lee will launch the training institute, Singapore's flagship project in Myanmar, tomorrow.

Its first batch of students graduated last month and many have found jobs or internships in Myanmar.

The school also held training programmes for 160 trainers and recruited 40 of them as its pioneer batch of instructors.

PM Lee said he looked forward to working with Myanmar in Asean. "I understand that your priority in this phase has to be domestic nation-building, but Myanmar has an important contribution to make to the region," he said.

Earlier in the day, PM Lee received a ceremonial welcome at the presidential palace before meetings with Mr Htin Kyaw and Myanmar State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi. They discussed how to strengthen economic ties and boost air links between both countries to increase tourist flows.

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