Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide on Friday praised Burma for the “tremendous progress” of its democratic reforms, saying the country has taken a “giant leap” since President Thein Sein was sworn in 18 months ago.
Speaking at the 4th Bali Media Forum, Eide said that having personally spoken to Thein Sein, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and members of civic society groups such as the 88 Generation students, he was “deeply inspired” and convinced that “real change” had taken place in the previously authoritarian state.
Responding to a question from Mizzima editor-in-chief Soe Myint about the differences between the EU and Norway’s approach to Burma policy, the Norwegian foreign minister emphasized that Norway had taken the lead in recognizing the new government.
He said that there had been a significant difference of opinion between Norway and the EU and the US.
“We [Norway] were arguing that this is the beginning of real change when the EU countries and the US did not belief so,” he said, adding that Oslo had “worked hard to change their opinion.”
Noting that Burma still had a long way to go in its reform process, Eide referred to his discussions with President’s Office Minister Aung Min and other government representatives, saying, “People who know they lack capacity are easier to deal with.”
With regard to Norway’s current policy in Burma, Eide said, “We [Norway] are not rushing in with one million different projects that are not coordinated. We align with the government and the parliament to make some national strategies.”
Eide refuted criticism of Norway’s role in promoting the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative, saying that his country had “reached out very effectively to the leaders of the minorities.”
The Bali Media Forum is being held on 7-9 November in arallel with the 5th Bali Democracy Forum.
The 5th Bali Democracy Forum is being held on the Indonesian island on November 8 and 9. Some 80 heads of state and ministers are attending. The six-member Burmese delegation is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Thant Kyaw.