Myanmar’s Suu Kyi seeks economic help on Singapore trip

Myanmar state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi put problems at home on the back burner Wednesday to appeal to senior business leaders in Singapore to help Myanmar become more prosperous than the Southeast Asian city-state within two decades.

Channel News Asia reported Suu Kyi as telling business leaders gathered at IE Singapore’s Global Conversations that in 20 years’ time Myanmar will have overtaken Singapore

“You will help us to do that because success in one part of the region means success throughout the region,” she said.

Suu Kyi — who also serves as Myanmar’s foreign minister — referenced her country’s human capital and natural resources as attractions for Singaporean ventures.

Her government has also taken steps to introduce or revise laws, such as the Myanmar Investment Law, which simplifies procedures and provides incentives, to make the country more appealing to foreign businesses.

In the past two months, Myanmar has been heavily criticized by the international community for its failure to probe ongoing attacks against its Rohingya Muslim population.

Rohingya advocacy groups claim around 400 Rohingya have been killed in military operations in northern Rakhine State since the Oct. 9 deaths of nine Myanmar border police officials, while Myanmar says just 86 people — 17 soldiers and 69 alleged “attackers” — have been killed.

Singapore’s neighbor Malaysia has called for an urgent meeting with Suu Kyi about the allegations, while a trip to Indonesia — scheduled to follow the three-day trip to Singapore — was postponed Monday after protests there over her country’s bloody crackdown and a thwarted plot to attack its Jakarta embassy.

On Wednesday, Suu Kyi cited the need to create jobs for the young people of Myanmar as “the most important part of our economic policy”.

“Without jobs, there can be no shiny future for our young people,” she said. “Unemployed youth is a potential threat to stability of our society.”

Myanmar’s western most state Rakhine is also one of its most impoverished. Suu Kyi has frequently underlined that she sees economic development as key to stability in the region.

Singapore’s trade minister, Lim Hng Kiang, highlighted the potential for the two countries to strengthen economic ties, particularly in areas of urban infrastructure, environmental solutions, transport and logistics and financial services.

As of Dec. 1, citizens of Myanmar and Singapore will also be able to travel to each other’s countries visa-free for 30 days.

“Amidst the uncertainties of today’s global environment, Myanmar is a bright and promising spot in a vibrant Southeast Asia,” he said.

Singapore and Myanmar have enjoyed a long-standing economic relationship.

In the last fiscal year, Singapore was Myanmar’s largest foreign investor, with investments amounting to $4.3 billion, and both governments work together in a Joint Ministerial Working Committee to drive bilateral economic cooperation.

During her trip to Singapore, Suu Kyi will have an orchid named after her at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Following the Myanmar government’s desire to crack down on corruption and regulate street hawkers, she will also be briefed by Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, and dine in a hawker center with Singapore’s foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Both she and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will also be guests of honor at the opening of an exhibition on Myanmar artifacts at the Asian Civilizations Museum.