DPM Teo Chee Hean at the 43rd Singapore Lecture

SM Teo Chee Hean | 21 August 2018

Opening remarks by DPM and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, at the 43rd Singapore Lecture on 21 August 2018.


Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,
State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar,
Professor Wang Gungwu, Chairman of the ISEAS Board of Trustees,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

A very warm welcome to the 43rd Singapore Lecture.

We are privileged to have Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with us this afternoon. Daw Suu, thank you for agreeing to deliver this lecture. This is the first Singapore Lecture by a Myanmar leader.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar

Her Excellency needs little introduction. Daw Suu has long fought to realise the Myanmar people’s aspirations for peace, national reconciliation, democracy and national development. She was under detention for more than 15 years, but remained resolute and dignified in her pursuit for democracy in Myanmar. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Following a wave of reforms which opened up the country in 2011, Daw Suu led her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), to successfully contest the 2012 by-election and the landmark 2015 General Elections. The NLD won resounding victories in both elections and formed the first civilian government in Myanmar in five decades.

Daw Suu’s speech to us today is timely. Myanmar stands at an inflexion point. Myanmar faces a number of challenges. First, while Myanmar continues its political transition, the country also has to grapple with the difficult issue of unifying its diverse ethnic groups. As State Counsellor, Daw Suu has made national reconciliation a priority. The NLD government has convened three sessions of the 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference for the various stakeholders in the country to find common ground and lay the foundation for a federal, democratic Myanmar.

Second, the NLD government has begun liberalising Myanmar’s economy – a process which will uplift the lives of the Myanmar people. Myanmar is strategically placed to build connections to three of the world’s fastest-growing regions – here in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Northeast Asia. Myanmar’s youthful and hardworking workforce, abundant mineral and agricultural resources, and rich tourism potential, mean that Myanmar has the potential to become one of the region’s success stories.

Third, there is an urgent need to ameliorate the communal tensions and humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. This is a complex issue with deep historical roots. Singapore and the ASEAN community encourage Myanmar and Bangladesh to press on with their shared commitment to facilitate the voluntary return of displaced refugees in a safe, secure and dignified manner and without delay. As a multi-ethnic society, Singapore understands that bringing together different communities is not an easy task. We know that maintaining harmony is a constant work in progress.

Singapore-Myanmar Relations

Daw Suu is familiar with Singapore. She has met many of our leaders over the years. She has also visited Singapore a number of times, most recently in November 2016. As a longstanding and steadfast friend of Myanmar, Singapore stands ready to support the Myanmar government’s efforts to foster reconciliation among its various communities, and bring peace and prosperity to all its people. We will continue to exchange experiences and expertise in areas that our Myanmar friends may find useful. Our strong and deepening economic linkages are a highlight of our partnership. In 2017, Singapore was Myanmar’s second-largest foreign investor and third-largest trading partner. We hope to conclude a bilateral investment treaty this year, which will help take our economic cooperation to the next level.

Another key pillar of our relations is our technical cooperation. Over 14,000 Myanmar officials of various levels have attended training programmes in Singapore as part of the Singapore Cooperation Programme. In 2016, we launched the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute (SMVTI) in Yangon to support Myanmar’s efforts to train and upgrade its workforce. Our people-to-people ties are also growing from strength to strength; in 2017, over 146,000 Myanmars visited Singapore, while nearly 50,000 Singaporeans visited Myanmar in 2016.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is now my pleasure to invite Her Excellency State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to deliver the 43rd Singapore Lecture, on “Democratic Transition in Myanmar: Challenges and the Way Forward”.

Foreign affairs