By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER
NAY PYI TAW — Lee Hsien Loong has asked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to use her high profile in the international community to boost the status of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations during a visit to Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday.
Lee visited Myanmar’s foreign minister at the Nay Pyi Taw residence of President U Htin Kyaw ahead of a state dinner in his honour, during the Singaporean Prime Minister’s first visit to the country since the new government took office at the end of March.
President’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay told reporters after the meeting that Suu Kyi was being sought by Lee to take a greater role in the regional bloc at a time when member states are attempting to foster closer economic relations and lower trade barriers.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has an internationally respected image,” he said. “But ASEAN is a small organization. Its voice is not too loud. So [Lee] requested her to actively take part in international forums on behalf of ASEAN.”
Lee’s entreaty to the democracy icon follows Myanmar’s inaugural hosting of the ASEAN Summit in 2014, a remarkable turnaround from the country’s status as the region’s international pariah.
In July 2003, former Malaysian Prime Minister suggested that Myanmar should be expelled from the bloc as a result of the former military regim’s decision to return Suu Kyi to detention, shortly after a junta-orchestrated infamous attack on her convoy at Depayin, Sagaing Region, which claimed dozens of lives.
After a separate meeting with Htin Kyaw on Tuesday, Lee announced a relaxation of travel rules between Singapore and Myanmar, with the introduction of 30 days of visa-free travel for Myanmar citizens from December 1.