During the recent Thingyan Festival, the entire country celebrated the arrival of Myanmar New Year 1380. The Global New Light of Myanmar and Myanma Radio and Television interviewed Russian Ambassador to Myanmar Dr. Nikolay Listopadov for his New Year wishes and thoughts on the two-year performance of the incumbent government.
Q: Mingalabar Your Excellency. It hasn’t been that long since the Myanmar New Year shifted from ME 1379 to ME 1380. Could you tell our readers your New Year wishes?
A: I am very happy for Myanmar and I know Thingyan passed with joyous celebrations. I wish for all Myanmar citizens to have peace of mind and prosperity in the New Year.
Thingyan is a happy occasion and there are many songs written for it. I don’t have much of a talent for singing, but I have read Thingyan poems and I’d like to ring in the New Year with a Myanmar Thingyan poem. “The month of Tagu, exceptional beauty resides within. The golden motif on every maiden’s head, no other flower can boast a grace so fair.”
Q: Thank you for your New Year wishes and the lovely poem. Now could you tell us your impressions on the current government’s two year performance and also how they have handled the Rakhine situation?
A: The current government has only been in power for two years, but I have seen a lot of accomplishments by them, especially in socio-economic development. They have also held the 21st Century Panglong conference twice and are readying for a third one. This is important, because a country cannot develop without peace.
The Rakhine situation is complex and sensitive. It’s not something that can be solved quickly. In my view, I think the current government headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will solve the situation as quickly as they can. They are taking a comprehensive approach to it, so I think they will find a solution soon.
Q: What plans does Your Excellency have to strengthen relations between Russia and Myanmar in the coming years?
A: This year is a momentous year as it marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Myanmar. Our two countries established diplomatic relations on 18 February 1948, and our relation has always been a friendly one. Based on this, we will further cooperation in all sectors.
During the Soviet Union era, our two countries cooperated on a lot of projects in Myanmar. In Yangon, we helped to build the Inya Lake Hotel and the Government Technical Institute (GTI) in Insein, while in Taunggyi we built Sao San Htun Hospital and Kyat Mauk Taung Dam in Mandalay Region. We are currently looking to help upgrade Sao San Htun Hospital.
Q: Are there any challenges for potential Russian investors in Myanmar?
A: The Russian Embassy is working to invite Russian businesspersons and companies to come to Myanmar and we facilitate trade and businesses via the Russia-Myanmar Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation (RMIC). We held the second meeting in Moscow last year and we will hold the third one in Myanmar. Bilateral trade between our two countries is increasing. There are some challenges, but I think there are more opportunities for investment as well.
Q: What are your impressions on the international community and the UN’s reactions to Myanmar handling the Rakhine situation?
A: What I want to say is that the Rakhine situation is an internal affair of Myanmar. Russia, for instance, does not involve itself in the internal affairs of other countries because we believe no good consequences will arise from interference. I think the Myanmar government and her people know better on how to solve its own problems. The international community can help Myanmar, but it should not directly involve itself in another country’s affairs. I view the blaming and pressuring done by others as negative approaches. This is something that Myanmar and Bangladesh need to work together on.
Q: There have been threats to impose economic sanctions placed on Myanmar after the Rakhine incident occurred. What effects do you think this will have on Myanmar during its democratic transition?
A: I don’t agree with sanctions or penalties. I think especially if the UN Security Council does not agree to the decision to impose sanctions on another country, then other countries should not be allowed to impose sanctions. It’s not constructive and it could negatively affect the public. These problems can be solved peacefully with a diplomatic solution. Russia is also a multicultural country like Myanmar, so we know how complex these problems can be.
Q: What would you like to advise the government moving forward?
A: I don’t want to give advice because as I’ve said before, Myanmar’s government and her people know their situation better than me. All I want to say is that peace is very important and the government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is trying its best to achieve lasting peace. I’m optimistic about Myanmar’s development. It is Russia’s wish as well that Myanmar will develop into a peaceful, prosperous country with whom we will maintain close, friendly relations.