A wide-ranging interview with Vietnamese Ambassador to Myanmar Dr. Luan Thuy Duong by the Global New Light of Myanmar and MRTV touched upon democratic and economic reform, peace process and bilateral relations between Vietnam and Myanmar.
Q: Please share your reflections on Viet Nam-Myanmar diplomatic relations.
A: This year we’re celebrating the 42nd anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the 70th anniversary of the first Viet Namese Representative Office in Myanmar. I think this is a very important mark in our relationship. We have shared success in all types of sectors: political, economic, social science and technology and cooperation. In economics, we have had success not only in trade but also in investment.
Recently we’ve had a lot of our social science and humanitarian institutions come to Myanmar and from Myanmar to Viet Nam to exchange views. So our relationship is not only marked in stone over the number of diplomatic years but also in a lot of development. We will soon exchange more highest-ranking visits and we will try our best to intensify our framework of cooperation. The relationship is not only on diplomatic terms but will be people-to-people contacts, party-to-party contacts, and society-to-society contacts and it will be mutually beneficial to our two countries.
Q: After the Viet Nam War, North and South Viet Nam reunified in 1975, so please share your experience with regards to Myanmar’s endeavor on its peace process.
A: Our country reunited in 1975 after 30 years of struggling for national independence and our sovereignty. I think that Viet Nam and Myanmar shared a common purpose of struggling for national reunion. We underwent a long line of wars so we lacked a lot of capacity and we needed much assistance from the people and we needed to solidate the people in one front that we called it the National Front for national reconciliation. We share that experience with Myanmar.
However I think we had some differences in national reconciliation because the histories of our two countries are different. The way we move forward is also different because Viet Nam don’t have as much serious ethnic issues and conflicts.
Q: Based on your experience we would also like to know your impression on Myanmar’s democratization process and the peace process.
A: Firstly, talking about the democratization process, I have been here in Myanmar for ten months, and I can see obvious democratization taking place everywhere. I’m most impressed with seeing the rise in civil rights and civil society but I think that for democratic transformation to be ensured for long, the Myanmar people need to do more. They especially need a legal system to ensure that happens.
Talking about the peace process in Myanmar, I can see the government, the people and also the ethnic groups have tried all their best for the peace process in Myanmar. We can see some progress especially with the second Panglong. It demonstrated not only the increasing number of the participants but also the outcomes of some commitments and some unanimous agreements among the participants on the essential principles.
I think that the principles are very important and critical because they are setted up for economic development, for social development, for environmental and land reforms. So, it is essential for the sustainability. We all know that the peace process is a process. It needs more time and it needs more efforts because peace is not something that can be just gained on the table but we need to bring it to reality. I strongly believe Myanmar’s peace process will gain success because the Myanmar people are peace-loving people.
Q: We have learned that in 1986 Viet Nam initiated political and economic reforms like market-oriented reform heading towards integration into the international economy. Myanmar is also striving for political reform in parallel with economic reform so what is your opinion on that?
A: Talking about our Renovation or as we called it in Viet Namese the Đổi Mới, we can see that Myanmar is now exactly in that time we were in 1980s (when we initiated economic reforms). We can share experience on how we can transform from the state-controled economy to market-oriented economy. But there were some differences as Myanmar already passed the stage with market-oriented economic developments long ago and the political system of Viet Nam and Myanmar are different. I also can see a lot of good points in the period Myanmar is carrying out renovations and integration into the world, especially in terms of social management and economic administration. So, we can learn from Myanmar as well.
Q: Please share your experience in tackling issues like human and drug trafficking and so on.
A: I think now drug trafficking and national crimes are universal issues. No country can deal with these issues by themselves; we need to cooperate with each others. Viet Nam cooperates much with its neighbors and other ASEAN countries. We have a very close cooperation with China, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia and now with Myanmar as well. That is why we have had the annual dialogues between the two public security ministries of Viet Nam and Myanmar on countering transnational and transborder crimes. Viet Nam and Myanmar should talk with each other and set up the framework to work and to cooperate in this field with more details.
Q: Terrorism is a great threat to regional security; can you talk more about that?
A: We can say that terrorism now is a very serious concern all over the world. Religious extremist from all kinds of religions, not only from Muslims, not only from Buddhists, but from a variety of religions, are taking advantage of religious beliefs from the people and they threaten the lives of the people. That is why we need to work with all our peoples, all our forces and all our goodwills and we need to work every day, everywhere. I think the most important factor in counter-terrorism is cooperation among countries in terms of legal systems. The second thing is we need to cooperate among forces to deal with crimes and terrorism. For example, defence, public security, and also civil society. But more importantly, I think we should not have a kind of religious discrimination whenever and wherever we are. Religious belief belongs to the people but we need to educate the people to understand the values of religions must be for fairness, equality, for development and for mutual benefits of all the peoples in the world.
Q: We heard Viet Nam has plans for cooperation on agriculture especially on processing and cultivation on rubber, coffee and pepper for export in Myanmar. Could you tell us more about this bilateral cooperation?
A: We need to intensify our bilateral cooperation not only for traditional friendship but also for partnership. For that I think we should take advantage of all current existing mechanisms we have so far. We already have a kind of annual regular dialogue in political events and public securities, trade and etc. but we need to have more mechanisms on cooperation between the two countries. For agricultural products, scientific technologies, vocational training, public health and etc. That is why we will sign more MOU documents on cooperation between the two countries. We also need more joint committees on these fields of cooperation.
The other thing is we should have more people-to-people contacts and we should have exchanges between the younger generations. In that way, the cooperation between the two countries is not just on the papers and agreements but it will come in reality.
Q: ASEAN is going to celebrate its 50th anniversary in August this year, so what is your inspiration for ASEAN solidarity on regional peace and stability?
A: Since the establishment of ASEAN, we have been talking about solidarity among ASEAN but also talking about unity in diversity. It means that ASEAN is a group of countries with a lot of diversity and we need to enhance unity and solidarity with all the efforts from ASEAN members. I think our two countries have done a lot for ASEAN’s solidarity in terms that we always struggle for the principles of ASEAN. We have done a lot for the projects and series of cooperation among ASEAN. Our two countries will continue our efforts and now in the new context of the development of the ASEAN region, Viet Nam and Myanmar will do more and enhance our cooperation in many issues across the region. For example, counter-terrorism, countering environment pollution and peaceful sustainability in the region.
Q: Regarding terrorism and outside media, they are trying to accuse Myanmar as being religiously discriminating. As resident ambassador here what is your impression about these criticisms?
A: I think that there have been criticisms on religious discriminations in Myanmar but I myself don’t see as much because here in Yangon I can see that people with different religious beliefs still live together in a peaceful environment. They share the common values of equality. However, there have existed criticisms, the government and the people and society need to do more to solve the issues. In some of these issues I think the legal systems and social policies are most important.