Fri 3 Aug 2012
Filed under: News
SINGAPORE – Despite the wave of political and economic reforms that Myanmar is undergoing, scepticism remains over whether its government might return to its rogue ways.
But panellists at the 5th ASEAN and Asian Forum – which was held here yesterday – were unanimous in agreeing that the reforms were here to stay.
The panel, organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, comprised United States Ambassador to Singapore David Adelman, Yoma Strategic Holdings Chairman Serge Pun and Dr Mely Caballero Anthony, who heads the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies.
During the discussion on engaging Myanmar, the panellists were optimistic that the reforms, while a work in progress, are sustainable in the long term. Foreign investors eyeing Myanmar’s rich natural resources and frontier market potential will continue to provide the economic incentives for its opening, they said.
The leadership of Myanmar President Thein Sein – who initiated the reforms – would also remain pivotal in directing and implementing the changes, they added.
Mr Serge Pun, a Myanmar national, said: “Thein Sein is respected because his principle is almost abnormal compared to those around him. If you look at what he has achieved in the eight months since he took office, you will agree that the reforms are not simply old wine rebottled.”
Mr Adelman also noted that Mr Thein Sein has been successful in communicating the administration’s will and policies to all parties, including the opposition led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
While the reforms have ushered warmer ties between Myanmar and the West, human rights issues persist – such as reports of killings carried out by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya Muslims – and on the business front, the country, which will chair ASEAN in 2014, still lacks financial and credit infrastructures.
The panellists reiterated that these issues must be addressed with full external support, such that the reforms do not lose momentum.