Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that the Canadian government will open an embassy in Myanmar. This comes months after the Southeast Asian country held historic elections, which led to Canada lifting economic sanctions.
Since 2011, a series of real political and economic reforms have been taking place in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Much of these changes have been approved by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a group supported by the nation’s military that was established only two years ago and is headed by Thein Sein and Aung Thaung.
The changes include the release of Chairperson and General Secretary of the National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi from a 15-year house arrest, amnesty for more than 200 political prisoners, a lax in currency regulations, press freedom, the start of a National Human Rights Commission and the introduction of labour laws.
Because of these developments, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) approved Myanmar’s bid for the chairmanship in 2014. Even United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a visit to the country, which is the first time in more than 50 years.
This month, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visits the region to meet with government officials and businesses, including the nations of China, Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar
During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum and Post Ministerial Conference, Baird met ASEAN officials and Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin. At the conference, Baird announced that Canada will be opening an embassy in Myanmar, according to a news release.
“Canada continues to be encouraged by the changes taking place in Burma. As Canada recently moved to broaden our relationship, I am pleased to announce that Canada is planning to open an embassy in Burma,” said Baird. “To that end, we look forward to working closely with the Burmese government in the coming weeks and months. It is our hope that this announcement will build on other positive developments in our relations with Burma.”
Although in April the federal government announced the suspension of prohibition of investment and trade, Baird, as well as officials from around the world, is still urging for further progress in the Southeast Asian country. In March, Baird made a visit to Burma, who is the first official visit by a Canadian official, where he presented Suu Kyi with a honourary Canadian citizenship.
“Canada stands ready to assist the Burmese government in any capacity to build on the democratic fundamentals, and the freedom and rights of their people,” added Baird.
Burma maintains an embassy in Ottawa. This is the fourth visit to Asia by Baird in the last year.