Malaysia PM Leads 50-Strong Delegation to Burma
By PATRICK BOEHLER/ THE IRRAWADDY Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Editor's Note: This article is an updated version correcting an erroreous statement that 150 persons were involved in the Malaysian delegation. 

Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Najib Abdul Razak arrived in Burma's capital Naypyidaw on Wednesday leading four diplomats and at least 50 businesspeople on a two-day visit to the country.

“It is widely expected that the visit will focus on economic issues,” Malaysian ambassador to Burma Ahmad Faisal Mohamed told Malaysian journalists on Tuesday. “Everybody is interested in Myanmar. If you are late, all the opportunities will be gone.”

Bilateral trade between Malaysia and Burma stood at US $795 million in 2011, an increase of nearly 27 percent from the previous year, according to Malaysian government figures. Roughly 258,000 Burmese nationals are registered as working in Malaysia.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mohammad Najib Abdul Razak
Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas giant Petronas and the hotel group Micasa have investments in Burma. In January, the Burmese government awarded two out of 18 new onshore oil and gas blocks to Petronas in its biggest energy tender in years. Petronas said in December that it was looking to expand its onshore presence in Burma. Six additional onshore oil and gas blocks are expected to be tendered soon.

Malaysia is ranked third as country of origin of tourists in Burma, overtaking South Korea and Japan last year, according to figures by the Burmese Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. 23,287 tourist visas were issued to Malaysians in 2011, up 44 percent on the previous year.

“In trade and investment, we are not doing that badly, but we can take these opportunities to talk about areas we can further develop. There is huge potential,” Ambassador Mohamed said.

A business delegation of more than 50 representatives of Malaysian companies has travelled with Najib to Naypyidaw to explore investments in telecommunications, construction, timber and agriculture, according to Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is temporarily home to a total of 88,500 Burmese refugees as of the end of January. 34,400 Chins and 23,000 Rohingyas are the two biggest ethnic groups of asylum seekers in Malaysia.

The ministers for human resources and home affairs, whose portfolios deal with foreign workers and asylum seekers, are part of the prime ministers’ delegation along with Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

Opposition parliamentarian Mujahid Yusof Rawa expressed hope that Najib will raise the issue of the Rohingya refugees in Naypyidaw.

“I hope that the prime minister’s visit will open a new chapter in how we handle the Rohingya refugees,” the MP for the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. “I hope there will be a new approach.”

“I call for the Burmese government to treat Rohingyas as Burmese,” he said. “Do not treat them as aliens.”

Najib’s visit was preceded by a preparatory visit by Foreign Minister Aman two weeks ago. This is his first prime ministerial visit to Burma and the first of a Malaysian prime minister since his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s visit in 2004.

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Oo Maung Gyi Wrote:
Malaysian Businessmen are very clever, they do not engage business in Myanmar without they get upper hand besides that they will wait till sanction has been lifted in Burma.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is following the step of Dr, Mahathir the forma Prime Minister of Malaysia and to make investment in Myanmar both think hundred tiumes then make decision once only. May be small business investment will do in the starting time, mega project will follow after US sanction has been lifted. They follow the british system. Petronas and Unocal are same style.

Oo Maung Gyi Wrote:
So call Rohingyas are not stateless peoples.They are Arakanese Muslims since centuries staying in Arakan. So how can make them stateless. The only thing is that they are Muslims so you want to brand them stateless which is totally unfair treatment. You can not measure them under 1982 citizenship law which was designed to eliminate Muslims population from Burma, but many of Burmese National becoming alien under this law which is undemocratic and promulgated by one party system of Ne Win who himself is not qualified to become Burmese citizen under this law as he is half chinese his grand father graveyard is in China, that was Moazi-tone told once to Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing.

Shwe Maung Wrote:
Oh, my God! They come to exploit our country's resources. And now they are asking for something that has nothing to do with business.
Rohingyas are not Burmese. They never were and they never will be. Their culture, mentality and manners are totally different. How can they be Burmese? Whoever thinks otherwise should dig a bit deeper into "real" history, origins and current state of affairs. You don't have to dig too deep! Oh, gosh! Just a few days ago, we had to give away a big chunk of our territory to Bangladesh where all the so-called Rohingyas came from in the first place. And now they want us to adopt them. We would not mind sharing our food, rendering love to the "truly" poor, sheltering those who really need it as we have always done and many western travellers from the past wrote truthfully about it. But to give away our home to someone else is too much to ask of us. Please be rational.

Sai Williams Wrote:
Are the proper laws, rules and enforcement for the business ready for the conservation of Myanmar's last remaining natural environment? What about improvement of citizens' work & management skills, urgent needs such as food and health care for population?

We should not let garbage makers & culture destroyers in. At this moment the world's poorest country should think of luxury & entertainment stuff, personal beauty stuff, etc. at the very last place.

Look at all the countries. Everyone protects themselves and their place.

kerry Wrote:
Are they there to support the will of the people - who want democracy, or are they circling to do deals and re-install the military in new clothes?

It looks like a calculating business trip to make deals with the oppressors, the horrible next step when a country screams for freedom.

If Malaysia really cared about the people of Burma, it would support Aung San Suu Kyi in this already corrupted, obstructed and potentially rigged election process

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