PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Dinner hosted in honour of Myanmar State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

PM Lee Hsien Loong | 30 November 2016 | Istana, Singapore

Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the official dinner hosted in honour of Myanmar State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the Istana on 30 November 2016.


Your Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

May I offer a warm welcome to State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her delegation. I am very happy to meet Daw Suu again, so soon after Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Vientiane in September and my official visit to Myanmar earlier this year.

Daw Suu and I, we discovered, have a personal connection that dates back several decades. Before Singapore became independent in August 1965, our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited India in May that year to attend a conference. He came home via Rangoon. At the airport in Rangoon, he was sent off by none other than Daw Khin Kyi, Daw Suu’s mother, who was then Burma’s Ambassador to India.

MFA, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a stress test of their archival, retrieval and knowledge management system, found a photo of that meeting at the airport between Mr Lee and Daw Khin Kyi in our National Library. The photo remind us of the long-standing goodwill and friendship between our two peoples, countries and leaders.

I would like to present Daw Suu with a copy of the photograph later on.

PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Dinner hosted in honour of Myanmar State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Singapore has been a long-standing and steadfast friend of Myanmar. This year we celebrate 50 years of our diplomatic relations and we look forward to do more together. Our economic ties are strong and we are increasing our trade and investments in each other. It shows our confidence in the long-term prospects for Myanmar.

Many of our companies, like Keppel Land, have been operating in Myanmar and contributing to Myanmar’s economic development for many years. We have new projects in public transport, the power sector and airports. I am pleased that we will begin discussions on a Bilateral Investment Treaty and will begin to update the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between Singapore and Myanmar. These moves will send a positive signal to investors and boost Myanmar’s economic growth.

One important driver of economic growth is human resource development and I am happy that here too, we have been able to make a modest contribution. We have a very successful Singapore Cooperation Programme. We have welcomed more than 13,000 Myanmar officials on this programme and I am pleased that one of your senior delegation members Ms Myat Thidar Aye was among them.

When I was in Myanmar in June, I was also happy to open the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute (SMVTI) in Yangon. The institute has progressed well and we will be welcoming some of its top students to Singapore for six-month internships at Singapore companies in a few weeks’ time.[/highlighter]

Our people-to-people links are strong and growing. I am glad that we are lifting visa requirements for our peoples to visit each other’s country, as Daw Suu had proposed six months ago, and Singapore would welcome the first Myanmar travellers under this exemption tomorrow. We also hope to increase the air connectivity between our countries so that our peoples can visit each other more easily.

Tomorrow, I am looking forward to opening the exhibition “Cities and Kings: Ancient Treasures from Myanmar” at the Asian Civilisations Museum, together with Daw Suu. The exhibition will showcase Myanmar artefacts dating from the 4th to 19th centuries in Singapore. They will give our peoples a valuable opportunity to learn about the ancient civilizations and the rich history of Myanmar. I would to thank the Myanmar Government for their generosity and support.

Finally, I am particularly happy to hear that Daw Suu is visiting a hawker centre on Friday. You might know, food, especially hawker food is very important to Singaporeans and very close to our hearts. I understand that you are looking to upgrade the wet markets and build hawker centres in Yangon, something like the hawker centres we have in Singapore. We are happy to share our experience and we will persuade our hawkers to divulge some of their secret recipes. Whether it is chwee kueh, chai tao kueh, which is carrot cake, chicken rice or laksa. More Singaporeans will go to Yangon and enjoy the meals there.

So distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, we are celebrating a warm friendship between two old friends. I ask you to please join me in a toast to the good health and success of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the continued blossoming of our long-standing friendship and cooperation. Cheers.

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