Norwegian PM pledges to uphold peace process in Burma
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Norwegian PM pledges to uphold peace process in Burma

Burma’s President Thein Sein received Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Credentials Hall of the Presidential Palace on Saturday, the state-run New Light of Myanmar said today.

Participants at the occasion were Union ministers Wunna Maung Lwin, Aung Kyi, Soe Thein, Tin Naing Thein, Khin Yi, Dr Mya Aye, Dr Kan Zaw, Dr Ko Ko Oo, departmental heads, Norwegian Foreign Minister Mr. Espen Barth Eide, Norwegian Ambassador to Myanmar Mr Kata Nordgaard and high level officials.

According to the President, the trip of the Norwegian PM will promote stronger cooperation between two nations.

As Norway has opened its embassy in Burma (Myanmar), the visiting PM said it is a sign of improving relations between the two countries. Jens Stoltenberg said Norway looked forward to boosting trade and commercial relations with Burma, revealing opportunities for mutual cooperation in energy, hydropower, oil and natural gas, fishery and communications sectors.

President Thein Sein emphasized that the Norwegian ambassador has been leading the proposal to reach aids for land mines clearance as well as education, health and settlement as part of a peace process. He said Burma’s elected establishment has turned only one year and seven months. He also confessed that his government has to cope with unprecedented challenges, like the communal rife in Rakhine State.

An extraordinary speech the President said was that his government has been working to guarantee inclusiveness of every political party in following reforms. He mentioned that political dissidents who opposed the regime for more than 20 years have become colleagues. He said the country has been addressing the crisis of one of the world’s longest ethnic conflicts amidst various complexities.

He also proclaimed that agreements have been reached with 10 out of 11 ethnic armed groups.  Furthermore, a schedule for talks has been started with the remaining one, he said. The President anticipates the peace of the whole nation almost immediately. As stated by the President, the political reforms must be implemented in unison with the economic reforms.

Burma is short of capital, know-how and human resources due to two decades of economic sanctions, he said. Then he expressed gratitude to Norway as the first country that relieved the sanctions.

Additionally, Thein Sein also stated that his government has already made foreign investment law, monetary policy, trade policy and investment policy at the level of international standards. Burma will likely export natural resources to Norway as value-added products, so as to do good to both countries, he said. He called attention to the employment of his citizens as a critical necessity. Thein Sein said he hoped that coming out of the industrial plants and work-shops could present many job opportunities.

According to the Norwegian Prime Minister, his country is prepared to increase economic relations with Burma. He has encouraged Norwegian companies to invest in Burma. Economic sanctions on Burma have already been lifted, Jens Stoltenberg said. Norwegian companies that are famous for telecommunication, oil and gas, hydro power and fertilizer sectors are bound for doing investment in Myanmar, he added.

Jens Stoltenberg also expressed his pleasure for Norway’s assistance for building democracy and peace in Burma/Myanmar including success of making peace with ten armed groups. He hailed the endeavors of the Thein Sein government for addressing conflicts in Rakhine State.  Besides, he welcomed the forming of the investigation commission for the Rakhine unrest.

Jens Stoltenberg also promised to fully support the peace making processes as well as human rights, child rights and equal rights for men and women in the country.

Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI) was set up in January 2012 at the request of the Myanmar Government with the Norwegian Government playing a lead donor coordination role. It is under the management of Charles Petrie (former UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar), according to the website of The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bangkok.

The aim of MPSI is to provide immediate support for the ceasefires agreed to between non-state armed groups (NSAGs) and the Government. An important aim is to create local dialogue among stakeholders, in order to support the ceasefires and the building of trust and confidence.

Besides, the Peace Donor Support Group was first held in June 2012 by the Government of Norway at the request of President Thein Sein to provide a common platform for dialogue between the donor community and the Burma Government. The group held its inaugural meeting with the President in Napyitaw on 12th June 2012.

To date, approximately US$30 million has been pledged by the members of the Peace Donor Support Group to fund interventions that support conflict-affected communities and  peace-making.

The PDSG have held and will continue to hold regular meetings with President Thein Sein, Minister Aung Min and members of the Union Peace-Making Central Committee. The PDSG members also plan to meet with non-state armed groups, civil society groups, and the wider donor community in the coming months.

Although the MPSI gives the impression of goodwill performance, the focal point on economic development is generally hazardous in the surroundings of resource-rich ethnic regions. Ethnic areas are intertwined with money-making development and divergence of politics.

The most important argument entangled with the war in Kachin state is the exploitation of hydropower resources and the jade-mines by China and the immoral cronies of military authorities at the cost of the local ethnic population. Moreover, the war is also telling the divergence of political beliefs between the military-backed government and the Kachin Independence Organization that hold on to the self-determination.