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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, October 17, 2018


What’s Behind Myanmar Military Chief’s Europe Voyage?

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Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing embarked on a goodwill visit to the Federal Republic of Germany with a stopover in Austria. His trip, made at the invitation of his German counterpart, signals the continuing importance that Berlin, as well as Europe more generally, plays in Myanmar’s development as well as the future prospects for the advancement of military-to-military ties following further easing of existing restrictions.

Min Aung Hlaing’s visit to Europe comes as little surprise. Despite sanctions imposed by European countries and the European Union (EU) more generally, several European states continue to play an important role in Myanmar’s development, not just in standard areas like the economy but also in supporting peace efforts and helping address lingering human rights concerns, including the troubling situation in Rakhine State. And since Myanmar’s opening in 2011 and after the election of democracy icon turned opposition leader turned State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Western states have eased some previous restrictions on the country and enhanced engagement (though an arms embargo remains in place).

Germany in particular has long had a good relationship with Myanmar. Bilateral ties also had a military component that lasted for decades until things cooled following the military crackdown in 1988, and the EU also subsequently imposed a ban on weapons exports to Myanmar. The relationship has warmed over the past few years, which has led both sides to explore future possibilities that could emerge in the military realm too. Germany, including its ambassador Christian-Ludwig Weber-Lortsch, also continues to engage with the military on a range of issues including ending the decades-old civil war.

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