Myanmar to develop closer ties with SAARC countries; Myanmar authorities encourage formation of new pro-junta political parties ahead of general elections; EU says Myanmar’s challenges “can only be addressed through genuine dialogue between all stakeholde
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  • After attending the recently concluded SAARC summit at Thimphu as an observer, Myanmar has expressed a keen interest in developing closer relations with SAARC countries, with which it already has long-standing cultural and trade ties. Myanmar had showed interest in becoming a full member of SAARC in May 2008. India has backed Myanmar’s entry into the grouping wholeheartedly.1

    Ahead of the upcoming elections expected to be held towards the end of the current year, several key leaders of Myanmar’s ruling junta, including PM Thein Sein, have resigned from their military positions. About 25 political parties have also applied for registration by April 30 and applications of 12 of these parties have already been accepted. Most of these are pro-junta parties. PM Sein himself has filed to form a party ‘Union Solidarity and Development Party’ (USDP). Myanmar’s main opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD) has opted to abstain from contesting the upcoming elections, due to which it may face dissolution in the near future.2

    During a recent meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers’ have expressed their desire to send a mission to Myanmar to discuss concerns over the upcoming elections. They have also urged junta leaders to cooperate with Piero Fassino, EU’s Special Envoy to Myanmar and reiterated their demand for the release of Suu Kyi. The EU ministers reiterated that Myanmar’s challenges “can only be addressed through genuine dialogue between all stakeholders, including the ethnic groups and the opposition.” 3

    In Thailand, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have urged the EU to send its representatives to look into the issue of use of force by the Thai government in the clash between them and government forces on April 10. 20 civilians and five soldiers were killed and more than 800 people injured in that incident.4

    Finland PM Matti Vanhaen visited Malaysia on April 28. His visit is expected to boost bilateral ties and facilitate cooperation in various fields, including innovation, information communication technology, and green technology.5

    Malaysia and Australia are to set up a Joint Working Committee on Anti-Terrorism. This Committee is expected to replicate the successful mechanism used by the Malaysia-Australia Working Committee on Human Trafficking. 6

    Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley expressed his country’s willingness to develop closer economic relations with Malaysia, particularly in the trade sector. Praising Malaysia’s expertise in waste management technology and in the agricultural sector, Thinley stated that being an agrarian economy itself, Bhutan can benefit from Malaysia’s expertise. 7