SINGAPORE: Singapore and Myanmar will begin discussions on a bilateral investment treaty, as well as update an avoidance of double taxation agreement, announced Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Nov 30).
Mr Lee made the comments at an official dinner he hosted for visiting Myanmar State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi at the Istana's Banquet Hall.
Singapore has been a long-standing and steadfast friend of Myanmar, said Mr Lee, and the two countries are looking to do more together as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Mr Lee noted that the two countries' economic ties are strong and that they are increasing their trade and investments in each other, showing Singapore's confidence in the long-term success of Myanmar.
He also hailed the two countries' people-to-people ties, noting that Ms Suu Kyi's visit coincides with the mutual lifting of visa requirements for Singapore and Myanmar ordinary passport holders, which takes effect from Dec 1. "We also hope to increase air connectivity between our countries so that our people can visit each other more easily," he said.
In his speech toasting Ms Suu Kyi, Mr Lee also noted that his personal connection with the Nobel laureate pre-dates Singapore's independence.
He spoke of how his father, founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew travelled to Rangoon – as Yangon was then known – in May 1965, after attending a conference in India. The elder Mr Lee was sent off at the airport by Ms Khin Kyi, Ms Suu Kyi's mother, who was then Burma's ambassador to India.
Presenting a photograph of the meeting to Ms Suu Kyi, Mr Lee said: "The photo reminds us of the longstanding goodwill and friendship between our two peoples and countries and leaders."
The photo from May 1965, of Mr Lee Kuan Yew meeting Aung San Suu Kyi's mother, Ms Khin Kyi (Photo: PMO)
"It's a real surprise and it shows that the ties between our countries are stronger than we imagine," said Ms Suu Kyi of the photograph.
"And these ties have been growing steadily stronger and stronger, and warmer and warmer," she said. "And I believe there is more understanding between our countries now than there has been in the past."
She noted that some of the business leaders she met earlier in the day had long-standing connections with Myanmar. "These connections form a kind of bond which goes beyond simple business interests."
Ms Suu Kyi added that she welcomes Singapore businessmen in her country. "We believe that, from these businessmen, our businessmen can learn not just the ways of making money, but how to make money without corruption. That is very important."
The Nobel laureate is scheduled have breakfast at a hawker centre with Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Friday. Mr Lee noted that food – especially hawker food – is very close to the hearts of Singaporeans, and that he was "particularly happy" to hear of Ms Suu Kyi's hawker centre visit.
"I understand you are looking to upgrade wet markets and build hawker centres in Yangon – something like the hawker centres we have in Singapore," said Mr Lee. "We are happy to share our experience and we'll persuade our hawkers to divulge some of our secret recipes – whether it's chwee kueh, chai tao kueh, chicken rice and laksa – and then more Singaporeans will go to Yangon to enjoy the meals there!"