Press release 19/2013
Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala, currently visiting Myanmar, met President of the country U Thein Sein and the opposition leader and current parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi. Hautala is the first Finnish minister to visit Myanmar after the relations between our countries broke down in 1988.
“President U Thein Sein seems to be very committed to the reforms, but naturally the number of challenges remains huge,” Minister Hautala pointed out. “We discussed the importance of the transparency of administration and popular participation. Without these, no genuine and lasting reforms can be made.”
In the festive but warm meeting, one topic of discussion was also Finnish support to Myanmar’s societal development. “Finland is currently in the process of preparing to launch bilateral cooperation with Myanmar. Even now Finland supports the ability of minority groups to negotiate and agree on peace with the government,” the Minister said.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi underscored that good will alone is not sufficient for making reforms, but to implement these a strategy concerning both the contents and scheduling is needed.
“She pointed out that the change is about to begin, but all parties have to learn to cooperate with each other and make compromises,” Hautala said, describing her discussion with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the status of women were a natural part of discussion between these two influential women who have both been advocating human rights for a long time.
“We were very much in agreement on the fact that a well-functioning democracy derives from the needs and expectations of citizens. It is important to ensure that the ongoing reforms really enhance the lives of ordinary people and poor people in particular," Minister Heidi Hautala said, after having renewed Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja’s invitation to Aung San Suu Kyi to visit Finland.
Additional information: Sirpa Mäenpää, Finnish Ambassador in Bangkok, tel. +66 81 172 4020 (Myanmar +4.5 hours); Milma Kettunen, Press Attaché for the Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala, firstname.lastname@example.org (Myanmar +4.5 hours)