State Visit to Myanmar
Their Majesties The King and Queen started their State Visit to The Republic of the Union of Myanmar today. The most important objective of this visit is to indicate Norway’s support for the ongoing reform process.
King Harald and Queen Sonja are accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland, State Secretary Kåre Fostervold of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and State Secretary Lars Andreas Lunde of the Ministry of Climate and Environment, as well as 70 representatives of some 40 Norwegian companies. The King and Queen will spend five days in Myanmar.
Several thousand young people wearing school uniforms and waving Norwegian and Myanmar flags lined the route from the airport to Myanmar’s newly constructed capital city, Nay Pyi Taw.
Welcoming ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw
Earlier today, King Harald and Queen Sonja were formally received by their hosts, His Excellency President U Thein Sein and his wife Daw Khin Khin, in a military ceremony that took place outside the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw.
Following the official welcome, the King and Queen met with President U Thein Sein. On the first day of the State Visit they will be meeting the three most central political figures in Myanmar: President U Thein Sein,Speaker of the Assembly of the Union Thura U Shwe Mann, and leader of the opposition Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Orchids to seed vault
King Harald and Queen Sonja were able to present Myanmar with a very special gift today. The country is home to unique flora, with 800 orchid species in danger of extinction. The Norwegian authorities are offering Myanmar space in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to safeguard seeds from these beautiful plants, which can be re-established in Myanmar should the need arise.
The King and Queen were also in attendance when the Norwegian and Myanmar delegations met for discussions at the Presidential Palace. The meeting culminated in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) – an overall agreement on development cooperation between the two countries.
King Harald referred to the agreement in his speech during the luncheon hosted by the president and his wife at the Presidential Palace. The King pointed to democratisation, the reform process, the environment and sustainability as the most important areas of focus:
“The memorandum of understanding on development cooperation that was signed earlier today symbolises a strengthening of relations between our two countries. It shows Norway’s commitment to consolidating and broadening relations through long-term development cooperation. Through this MoU, Norway and Myanmar have agreed that the overall goal for our bilateral development cooperation is to contribute to peace and reconciliation. We also aim to improve the environment for social and economic development.
We have agreed to focus our cooperation on two main areas. The first area is peace, democratisation and the reform process. The second main area of cooperation is energy, the environment and climate change, and the sustainable management of natural resources.”
Meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi
In the afternoon, King Harald and Queen Sonja met with Speaker of the Assembly of the Union Thura U Shwe Mann, after which they met with opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Daw Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.
On to Yangon
Myanmar is five-and-a-half hours ahead of Norway, and the King and Queen have now travelled on to Yangon, where the second day of the State Visit will take place. Yangon was formerly known as Rangoon and was the capital of Myanmar until 2006. The day’s programme will begin at the University of Yangon, where King Harald will speak about Myanmar’s transition towards democracy.