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Singapore can advise developing ASEAN countries by sharing expertise: Burmese Minister

Myanmar's Coordinating Minister for Economic Development U Soe Thane said Myanmar has learnt from the way Singapore handled the Little India riot.

SINGAPORE: Singapore can play an advisory role to developing ASEAN countries like Myanmar by sharing its technologies and expertise in areas like healthcare, education and economic development, said Myanmar's Coordinating Minister for Economic Development U Soe Thane at an ASEAN business and investment forum on Friday (Aug 1).

Organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), the forum saw Mr U Soe Thane highlighting how Myanmar has learnt from the way Singapore handled the nation's first riot in more than 40 years.

Addressing some 250 delegates during a question and answer segment, he said Singapore has understood Myanmar's issues since the 1960s, with then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew advising and offering assistance to the once-reclusive country. As Myanmar continues with its reforms, Mr U Soe Thane said Singapore businesses can help by sharing its technologies. 

He also shared how Myanmar learnt from Singapore's experience of the Little India riot when it was dealing with a conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in Mandalay about three weeks ago. "I learnt from Singapore's experience; Little India (riot) happened here. So I told (the) Chief Minister, 'please meet the people and conduct interviews like Singapore (did). Solving the problem in a Singaporean way and meeting every day, every hour. Now it is okay, we succeeded in overcoming that situation," he said.

REGIONAL POWER SHIFTS AND TENSIONS

The seventh such forum organised by the Institute is set against a backdrop of power shifts and rising tensions, such as those involving Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines against China. Experts say businesses investing in ASEAN countries must constantly adapt to such developments.

SIIA Chairman Simon Tay says the business community is still trying to grapple with the issues beneath the tensions. "Whether it's the South China Sea or the problems in Northeast Asia between the Chinese and the Japanese, it seems like noise and rumbling from offstage, but I think the bigger position to realise is that it can have an impact. If there is a violent conflict or a sense of disunity in ASEAN, this can really start to affect how the integration of ASEAN happens and the speed (at which it happens). I frankly think we're at the beginning of trying to understand it," Professor Tay said.

He also believed that while ASEAN's order of business is not likely under threat in the short term, it has to be conscious of the growing tension between the two powers. "For so long, we thought, economic interdependence, win-win, that's enough. But really  it's come to the point where the Chinese and the Japanese, as the two largest Asian economies, if they continue this bickering, it's bound to trickle down to where investments are made and to what businesses start to feel all this."

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