Myanmar International Relations

Until the last release of Aung San Suu Kyi in November 2011, Myanmar was largely considered a pariah state in the west. In the 1990’s the US and the EU imposed sanctions on the country, at the same time it was accepted into the Southeast Asian confederation ASEAN in 1997, despite western protests. Before 1988, the country had isolated itself through a strict policy of neutrality. This policy, which at least succeeded in keeping Burma out of the wars in Indochina, culminated in 1977 when the country withdrew from the movement of the non-aligned countries because it was no longer neutral enough for the ne-win regime. One of the promoters of this movement was the first Prime Minister, Nu, who was instrumental in bringing about the Bandung Conference in 1955, which led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade in 1961. This stance can be traced back to Aung San himself, who turned down the British government’s offer to give Burma Commonwealth member status after independence.

Western sanctions were suspended (EU) or relaxed (USA) in 2012 after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country in early December 2011. The visit was preceded by a telephone conversation between President Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi. The UK and the US are still largely orienting their policies towards the country on the stance of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been and is seen as the legitimate representative of their country since the NLD’s 1990 election victory. Obama himself visited Myanmar on his first trip abroad after his re-election in November 2012.

Regional integration

Together with Laos, Myanmar became a full member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on July 23, 1997. According to estatelearning, the government of Myanmar received – in view of the international criticism – support through the ASEAN principle not to interfere in the internal affairs of other members. A number of ASEAN meetings were held in Myanmar after membership. In 2006, the government renounced its regular chairmanship of the community, but took on this prestigious position in 2014. Of the 20 regional centers established by the Organization of Community Education Ministers (SEAMEO), one is in Yangon, responsible for history and tradition (SEAMEO chat).

German-Burmese relations

They deserve special mention because until 1988 the Federal Republic of Germany was Burma’s second largest bilateral partner after Japan in the areas of economic cooperation and development cooperation. German interests go back to the colonial era. Soon after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Germany was the second largest importer of goods – especially rice – from Burma after the Empire. The first consulate was opened in Akyab (Sittwe) in 1853. A visible sign of the German commitment was the German Club, which opened in Rangoon in 1867, which was replaced by a representative building in 1890, the basic structure of which is still today in Bogyoke Aung San Street on the site of a Catholic sisterhood that acquired the site during the First World War are found.

After the Second World War, German relations with Burma were largely promoted by the good relations of a state-owned German company which, after 1955, helped establish an arms industry in Burma. A large number of soldiers and some civilians were trained in Germany for this purpose. The company later helped build numerous factories for civil goods. Ne Win visited Germany every year in the course of his European trips and received officials, political parties and business representatives in the Rheingau. Parallel to this commitment, Burma became a favorite child of German development aid, which supported around 70 projects there. The visits of numerous German delegations were crowned in 1986 by the state visit of the Federal President von Weizs├Ącker, who on this occasion praised the German-Burmese friendship. This friendship was to a large extent the product of one on the German sideromantic illusion. The GDR, which had opened a commercial agency in Rangoon in front of the Federal Republic in 1954, which was later expanded into an embassy, tried to maintain good relations with the country and concentrated above all on training Burmese in various areas (including mining) and on cultural contacts. After the unrest of 1988 and the end of the GDR, all these activities came to an end.

After 1988 there was a complete U-turn in German policy towards Burma. The military regime was condemned, development aid was suspended, and Germany joined – albeit not with full conviction – the EU sanctions policy advocated by Great Britain and the Nordic countries. After the EU sanctions were suspended, a new phase of development aid began. In consultation with other countries of the Community, priorities were set in the development of the banking system, the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises and vocational training. In the course of promoting vocational training, renewed funding began for the center in Sinde in Mittelbirma, which had already been a prestige cooperation project before 1988.

Lutheran Bethlehem Church, 181-183 Theinbyu Street. The church was founded in 1878 by a German missionary. It originally consisted of Tamil migrants who had come to Burma from a mission area of the Leipzig Mission in southern India. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1917 on the 400th anniversary of the Reformation. At this point the German missionaries were no longer responsible for looking after the community. After the outbreak of World War I, a Swedish mission company took over this task. To this day, the pastor is particularly happy about German visitors!

Newsstand in the center of Yangon