U Myint Thu, Director-General of the Strategic Studies and Training Department of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered a talk on the “Foreign Policy Agenda under the NLD Government” on 5 October 2016 at the Benedicto Room, Carlos P. Romulo Library.
The Director-General discussed Myanmar’s democratic transition, the realization of expectations from the international community and the implementation of reforms towards economic liberalization, and an active, independent and non-aligned foreign policy under the National League for Democracy (NLD). According to him, Myanmar’s foreign policy is guided by the five principles of peaceful co-existence it signed with China and India in 1954: (1) mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; (2) to abide by mutual non-aggression; (3) non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; (4) respect for mutual equality and to work for mutual benefit; and (5) peaceful co-existence.
U Myint Thu emphasized Myanmar’s vision of playing a more significant role in the region. The country’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014 helped establish its credibility and stature in the international community. He also highlighted specific events that reflect the reforms in Myanmar’s foreign policy, such as its concern for the South China Sea situation; and its condemnation of DPRK’s hydrogen bomb test in early 2016. Moreover, Myanmar is consciously rebalancing its relations with the major powers China, India and now the United States via high-level state visits of then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011, and U.S. President Barack Obama in 2013.
In terms of economic reforms, a new foreign investment law is in the pipeline to level the playing field for foreign and local investors in Myanmar. Reforms on the multiple exchange rate system, trade restrictions, and tax and investment policies were also undertaken. The ambassador also cited the reforms on human rights conditions and peace initiatives by engaging international groups and civil society organizations. An advisory commission, led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, was formed to undertake dialogues and consultations and provide recommendations relating to the human rights situation in the Rakhine State.
As a final point, U Myint Thu reiterated the optimism of Myanmar and its call for the understanding and support of other ASEAN member states and the international community in its democratic transition. Myanmar also welcomes constructive recommendations in achieving success in long-lasting peace and national reconciliation.