H.E. U Kyaw Tint Swe, Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor, accompanied by H.E. U Set Aung, Deputy Minister for Planning, participated in the 23rd St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, St. Petersburg, Russia, from 6-8 June 2019.
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum has been held since 1997 and is considered to be a unique event in the world of business economics. It is held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation who attends each event. The Forum provides a global platform for the business community to meet and discuss key economic issues facing the Russian Federation including the world as a whole and emerging markets.
The Myanmar Delegation led by the Union Minister together, Deputy Minister and U Ko Ko Shein, Myanmar Ambassador to the Russian Federation participated in the “Plenary Session” of the Forum on 7 June 2019. During the plenary session, H.E. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, H.E. Rumen Radev, President of Bulgaria, H.E. Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, H.E. Peter Pellegrini, Prime Minister of Slovakia as well as Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations delivered their speeches respectively. This was followed by an intensive 2-hour question and answer session.
Meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
On 10 June 2019, the Union Minister met with H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office. Deputy Minister U Set Aung, the Myanmar Ambassador to Russian Federation and officials concerned attended the meeting.
During the meeting, both sides exchanged views on promoting the economic relations, enhancing cooperation between Myanmar and Russia, and strengthening the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership which was elevated to “Strategic Partnership” in November 2018.
The Union Minister apprised the Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov the issue of the Rakhine State. He shared information with regards to the efforts by the government to resolve the issue. Immediately after the assumption of State responsibility, the Central Committee for Peace, Stability and Development of Rakhine chaired by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was established. The Government also set up an Advisory Committee on Rakhine State chaired by Mr. Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations. The attack by terrorist group ARSA was a deliberate attempt to thwart the efforts of the government to find a peaceful resolution to the issue.
He explained to the Foreign Minister that one of the root causes of the issue in Rakhine was irregular migration from Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one third of the size of Myanmar and three times its population. Throughout the years, there has been irregular migration from Bangladesh due to the porous borders between the two countries. Although the Bangladesh government would not acknowledge the fact, there were more than half a million irregular migrants from Bangladesh to Myanmar as early as 1975. Myanmar would like to have good and friendly relationship with all its neighbours including Bangladesh.
Myanmar believes that issues between neighbours should be solved bilaterally in an amicable manner. This is not the first time that Myanmar and Bangladesh have had to deal with displaced persons. It has happened twice in the past. Both times, the issue was resolved satisfactorily through bilateral means. This time also, Myanmar has signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh. Under the agreement, Myanmar has agreed to repatriate the displaced persons in Bangladesh if it is verified that they have been residents in Myanmar.
Myanmar has done everything to fulfil the bilateral agreement. However, this was not reciprocated. Myanmar has also involved the ASEAN in the repatriation process. In recent report by the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) after a systematic survey, it has testified to significant efforts made by Myanmar to receive the returnees. Up to now, because of lack of cooperation from Bangladesh, there has been no repatriation through the official channel. However, some 200 people both Muslims and Hindus have returned under own volition under their own arrangement. Instead of implementing the bilateral agreement, Bangladesh has been calling for the establishment of a ‘Safe Zone’ inside Myanmar. This attitude will in no way help to resolve the issue. The only realistic way to resolve the situation is through bilateral means.
Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov expressed Russia’s appreciation for the steps Myanmar has been taking including the signing of the bilateral agreement with Bangladesh, involving AHA in the repatriation process, signing the MOU with UNDP and UNHCR. He also expressed appreciation in regards to the establishment of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE). He confirmed the position of the Russian Federation that the issue of repatriation of the displaced persons currently in Bangladesh should be resolved bilaterally and that the international community should help this process. He also expressed his appreciation the position taken by Myanmar with regard to the resolution that are of interest to the Russian Federation.—MNA