Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Evening;

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Evening;

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to celebrate this 66th Anniversary of our country’s Independence Day. First of all, on behalf of Myanmar people and government and on my own behalf, I would like to express our deep appreciation and profound thanks to your Excellency Ms. Sally Mansfield, Chief of Protocol of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, representing the Government of Australia.

May I also express our sincere thanks for the presence of Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, heads of the missions,  our ASEAN Colleagues, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and various departments and as well as Myanmar community friends who are here today..

Our Independence Day is actually on the 4th January . But it is coinciding with Christmas and New Year holidays in Australia and in order to celebrate our Independence Day with our distinguished guests and friends we have postponed it until today.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

This 66th Anniversary of Independence Day is significant for us as it coincides with a time when Myanmar is taking ASEAN Chair for the First Time and also the 40th Anniversary of Asean-Australian Dialogue Partner Relations. I would like to express our sincere thanks through my colleagues to the respective Governments of the ASEAN member countries for its support to Myanmar’s taking ASEAN Chairmanship. I also thank to the Australian Government for its kind support with technical assistance and training course to our ASEAN Department.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I take this opportunity to touch briefly on our bilateral relations and cooperation between Myanmar and Australia.

We have been able to maintain a friendship and cooperative relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries in 1953. There have been rapid developments in the bilateral relations between our two countries in recent years. We express our sincere appreciation to the Australian Government for its increasing bilateral engagement with Myanmar and support for our reform process.

As you all are aware, the historic visit of our President H.E. U Thein Sein to Australia in March 2013 has opened a new chapter in our bilateral relations. The subsequent visits of Her Excellency, the Governor General the Honourable Mrs. Quentin Bryce and Governor of New South Wales the Honourable Professor Marie Bashir to Myanmar have even further consolidated the friendship including understanding and cooperation between our two countries and people.

We believe that the frequent exchange of visits between government officials at various levels, including people to people contacts from the business and social sector, education and healthcare sector will further promote our relations and collaborations. Recently, we have further exchanged official visits of the high level government officials including both Speakers of Parliament from Myanmar and the President of Senate from Australia.

We are grateful for Australia’s support for Myanmar’s efforts in developing human resources and institutional capacity. At the same time Australia has been contributing Myanmar’s development by providing assistance to help improve the lives of people in Myanmar. I am happy to note that the Australian Government has allocated considerable amount of  oversea aid to Myanmar in 2015. Moreover, Australia is the first western nation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Development with the Myanmar Government in January 2013. I believe that the Australian Government will maintain and continue further support to our country.

Australia is facilitating increased trade and investment links with our country. In May 2013, Australia opened an Aus-trade office in Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial centre and appointed a Trade Commissioner. Moreover, Australia Myanmar Chamber of Commerce was formed in March 2013. I noted that Draft MOU between Association of Australia-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Association of the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce has been finalized and it is ready to sign. Australia Myanmar Chamber of Commerce has significantly endeavored  to develop business link between our two countries since the establishment of their association.

I have no doubt that there would be  a huge potential for Australian companies in the fields of Resources, Infrastructure, Tourism, Education, Agriculture, Financial Services and IT Sectors. And also, I can say , Australia as a close neighbor will benefit from a more open and prosperous Myanmar that is fully integrated into the region.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Taking this opportunity, I would like to briefly state the development of our country.

The new constitutional Government led by the President U Thein Sein came into office on 30 March 2011.  Over the past two and a half years, it has embarked on a process of transition to democracy. In keeping with the aspirations of the people of Myanmar, the Government has been undertaking unprecedented and wide-ranging political and socioeconomic reforms. The reform process is based on the two fundamental needs of the people which are to establish peace, stability , rule of law; and to advance socioeconomic development of the lives of the people.

In the first 30-month period of its term, the Government has been able to lay a firm foundation for building a democratic society. Political space has been created for every stakeholder and all-inclusive political system is in place. Political parties have been formed and many parties are represented and are actively participating in the parliament. They are also making necessary preparations in the anticipation of the upcoming 2015 general election.

In the light of the positive political developments and a view to enhance national reconciliation efforts, the President granted amnesty on 12 occasions and set free over 20,000 prisoners in order that they may also be able to take part in the national reconciliation and nation-building processes. A special prisoner review committee is working diligently to ensure that no prisoners of conscience remain behind bars.

Peace is a prerequisite for political stability and economic development. Myanmar has been in armed conflict with more than a dozen ethnic armed groups for over six decades since the regaining of the independence. Lack of internal peace and stability deprived the country and the people  from economic development, political stability and national unity in the past.

Therefore, soon after assuming State responsibilities, President U Thein Sein invited all armed groups to the negotiation table to take part in the peace talks. As a result of genuine goodwill and the relentless efforts of the Government, tangible progress has been made in national reconciliation efforts. The peace overtures of the Government have led to the conclusion of ceasefire with all armed groups for the first time in over 60 years.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the time of democratic transition, Myanmar has faced several challenges. One of the most significant challenges was inter-communal violence in Rakhine State and in Meiktila, Lashio and Kantbalu in 2012 and 2013 respectively. In fact, it was not the particular issue of religion targeted by Buddhist majority. It was an issue of communal violence between the two communities. During these incidents, both Buddhist and Muslim communities lost human lives, properties, houses, schools , monasteries and mosques.

As you all know, Myanmar is a multi-ethnic and multicultural country with a long history of peaceful and harmonious coexistence amongst different faiths. Although Buddhism is the religion of the majority of its people, other religions such as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism coexist and flourish throughout the country. Religious tolerance and freedom of worship are guaranteed in the State Constitution. The government encourages and maintains inter-religious harmony and freedom of worship of different faiths. Buddhist Pagodas, Christian Churches, Islamic Mosques and Hindu Temples stand side by side throughout the country, testifying to the prevalence of religious harmony and tolerance.

In order to end the conflict and implement the reconstruction activities swiftly, the Government established the Central Committee for Implementation of Stability and Development in Rakhine State to carry out short-and long-term plans. It also established seven subcommittees, assigning each to work on the rule of law, security and law enforcement, immigration and review of citizenship, temporary resettlement and reconstruction, international cooperation, social and economic development and strategic planning. Myanmar’s commitment for peaceful resolution was highlighted by an inspection tour of President U Thein Sein to the several townships of Rakhine State in October 2013. The President inspected the internally displaced person’s camps and met people from the Rakhine community and the Islamic faith leaders in Sittwe on separate occasions to discuss the community peace and development.

The Government has made extensive efforts in providing shelters and food, as well as improving the living conditions of all affected persons without discrimination in cooperation with UN agencies, NGOs and donors countries including Australia. The Government stands ready to provide access and facilitate humanitarian and other assistance from any sources including OIC. In this regards, we accepted the OIC’s offer to visit Myanmar and fully cooperated during their visit to find ways to provide humanitarian assistance to both communities.

Since the launch of the emergency, resettlement and reconstruction programs in July 2012, donations from those international partners amounting $ 73 million have been received and disbursed. The Government of Myanmar has already spent over 12.45 billion Kyats (over $10 million) from its own resources, in addition to providing materials and services for affected persons. Considerable progress has been achieved in the construction of shelters, housing, schools and health clinics as well as food security, education and health services.

Excellencies,  Ladies and  Gentlemen,

In parallel with its political reforms, the Government has also launched economic reforms to improve the socioeconomic development of the country. This has led to the opening of the economy through economic liberalization measures, including financial reforms, the creation of a friendly investment environment, the revitalization of tourism, the initiation of environmental protection and the adoption of a people-centered development approach.

The Government has also established a program for poverty alleviation and rural development through the promotion of agriculture and micro financing. It aims to reduce the current poverty rate from 26 % to 16% by 2015, keeping with the Millennium Development Goals. The Government laid a firm foundation for the market-oriented economic system and managed to remove external obstacles hindering foreign trade and investments. Now most sanctions have been lifted, paving the way to increase trade and investment with all countries. The Government enacted the new foreign direct investment law in 2012 which was drafted to ensure mutual benefits for foreign investors and our people.

As of September 2013, a total of 600 foreign investment project proposals from 32 countries with a pledged amount of over 4.3 billion dollars had been approved in 12 economic sectors. For the sake of transparency, the Government is taking steps to practice internationally recognized extractive industry initiatives. It also has plans to promote responsible tourism to conserve nature and culture and to protect the interests of the local people.

The Government is aiming to achieve sustained economic growth at 7.7 % in the next five years and to move forward to a knowledge-based economy. In the remaining years of its term, the Government plans to accord high priorities to fulfill the basic socioeconomic needs of the people, particularly electricity supply, adequate drinking and irrigation water, small and medium enterprises and industrial development in order to generate more job opportunities.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now allow me to highlight the 27th SEA games taken place in NPD recently!

From 14th to 20th December, 2013,  Myanmar was honored to host the 27th South East Asian Game for the first time since 1969. It was a monumental and painstaking task and there were some concerns whether Myanmar could host this kind of event successfully. Unless the entire nation participated enthusiastically,  volunteering their time and energy as well as various assistances accorded by the regional countries, we won’t be able to host the game of this such big scale. The breath-taking spectacular opening and closing ceremonies symbolized Myanmar’s return to its respectable position in the region.

Excellencies,  Ladies  and  Gentlemen,

 Thank you all, once again, for your kind presence here today and I would like to wish you all for the Happy, Healthy and Prosperous upon the upcoming year 2014. Thank you!