'It is my job to expand Ireland’s footprint in Myanmar'

After a long career in Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Brendan Rogers took up the post of ambassador to Thailand and Myanmar in 2014, presenting his credentials to President U Htin Kyaw in April 2016.

A regular visitor to Myanmar in the time since, ambassador Rogers spoke to Frontier about his time in the country, the Irish expatriate community and the St Patrick’s Day celebrations planned for later this month.

What do you hope to achieve here in Myanmar during your term?

Although Ireland and Myanmar have a similar colonial history, many of Ireland’s great authors are known in Myanmar, and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is so well known in Ireland, we still have a journey to go in deepening relations between our countries.

It is my job to expand Ireland’s footprint in Myanmar. This means facilitating the expansion of trade between our countries, building cultural links, promoting tourism, facilitating people-to-people contacts, and generally deepening understanding at every level.

Although I am not a resident in Myanmar I hope to very regularly visit this beautiful country and engage with the leaders and people, and also of course the small Irish community in Myanmar. And of course I would like to see more Irish businesspeople engaging economically with Myanmar, and lots of Irish tourists visiting.

What have been some of the pleasant or surprising experiences you’ve had during your visits to Myanmar?

In Ireland and in our language we have a saying: “Céad Míle Fáilte”, a Hundred Thousand Welcomes. We believe that the Irish are one of the most welcoming people in the world. Well, I must say I also received a Hundred Thousand Welcomes here in Myanmar. I found so many people friendly, welcoming, open and generous with their time.

There is a great energy surging through Yangon and I love walking about and visiting some of the markets. I have visited Myanmar four times in the last eight months and my colleagues have been here as well. And I am looking forward to travelling beyond Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw.

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The Irish community in Myanmar is small. But they are vibrant and also welcoming. They are working in business. They are working with NGOs and with the UN. They are teaching. Being a small community, they link well together. They are also delighted to have an active embassy presence. In Thailand we have a large Irish presence and an active community, and we are building this in Myanmar.

What should we expect from St. Patrick’s Day this year?

Already in 2017 plans are advanced to celebrate the feast of St. Patrick, our national saint. There will be a function on March 25 that will bring together the Irish, the friends of the Irish and those who would like to be Irish for a day. Or longer. We can expect some Irish music from musicians who are travelling from Dingle on the southwest coast of Ireland, good Irish food and lots of laughter and fun (or “craic” as we call it).

The Irish embassy’s St Patrick’s Day celebration will be held at Penthouse in Sanchaung from 7:30pm on March 25. Entry is free and all are welcome.

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