Myanmar president due next month

Rezaul Karim

Myanmar President Thein Sein will pay a three-day official visit to Bangladesh beginning on July 15 with officials saying that repatriation of Rohingya refugees, energy cooperation, trade and connectivity will be high on the agenda.

Besides, cooperation in the agriculture sector will also come up for discussion while Dhaka and Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital of Myanmar, may launch a joint collaboration in the tourism sector.

This will be the first high-level visit from Myanmar in recent years.

Myanmar’s Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint will pay a two-day visit to Bangladesh on July 1-2 for preparing the ground for Thein Sein’s tour as well as finalise issues to be tabled for discussion.

He will also hold foreign office consultation with Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes during his visit.

The last foreign secretary-level consultation was held on August 24, 2011 in Nay Pyi Taw.

“We are expecting a breakthrough in halting the repeated influx of ethnic Rohingyas from Myanmar as well as repatriation of 28,000 registered refugees,” said a government official.

The Myanmar government is also eager to permanently settle the issue of Rohingya refugees as it is creating image crisis of the country abroad and affecting bilateral relations with Bangladesh, the official added.

Foreign ministry sources said President Thein Sein is coming at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who extended an invitation during her visit to Nay Pyi Taw on December 5-7, 2011.

A ground has already been prepared regarding the settlement of Rohingya issue as Myanmar has already agreed to take back Rohingya refugees after verification by its authorities, the sources added.

Besides, the issue of around 5 lakh unregistered Rohingyas living in Bangladesh will also come up for discussion.

An official of the foreign ministry said they hope to work out a solution to the problem of illegal Rohingyas during the visit of the Myanmar president.

The visit of Thein Sein takes place at a time when the Myanmar government has been undertaking reforms towards democracy.

On air connectivity, the foreign ministry officials said Dhaka and Nay Pyi Taw have already initiated a new air service agreement to operate seven passenger flights and four cargo flights a week between the two countries.

The services are expected to begin after the visit of the Myanmar president, they added.

Earlier, the national flag carrier Biman suspended its Dhaka-Yangon flight in 2007 due to losses.

On Dhaka’s proposal for import of electricity from Myanmar, the foreign ministry officials said they are yet to receive any positive response from Nay Pyi Taw, but the issue will be discussed again during the official talks between the two sides.

Although there are about 10 agreements between the two countries including those in areas of land boundary management, trade, transport, and prevention of narcotics, many of them are only on paper, except for the border agreement.

Despite having immense potential for bilateral trade, Bangladesh’s exports stood at $9.65 million and imports from Myanmar at $175.7 million in 2010-11.

Source: The Daily Star

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