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Singapore’s premier has congratulated Myanmar’s new premier, Lieutenant-General Thein Sein, and invited him to attend the Asean bloc’s upcoming summit, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
Thein Sein took over as prime minister from General Soe Win, who died on October 12 after a long illness. Soe Win had spent about four months in a Singapore hospital before he was flown home to spend his final days.
“Singapore and Myanmar enjoy friendly and long-standing ties,” Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a letter released by the ministry.
“With your support, I am confident that we will be able to bring our bilateral relations to a higher level.”
The prime minister in military-ruled Myanmar is thought to wield little influence, with the real power held by junta leader Senior General Than Shwe.
Lee also asked Thein Sein to attend the Asean summit in November in Singapore during which members are expected to sign a landmark charter that includes a provision on the protection of human rights.
Singapore, current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has led criticisms over the Myanmar junta’s crackdown on September protests that left at least 13 people dead and more than 2,100 people arrested.
Critics have said the city-state should take concrete steps to pressure the junta to take more steps toward democracy, like halting business contacts, but the government has said sanctions are unlikely to work.
The UN envoy on Myanmar called yesterday for more dialogue after a rare meeting between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, saying that concrete progress would improve the regime’s relations with the world.
“This is only a first step,” Gambari said in Tokyo after talks with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda