“Cultural Diplomacy to Enhance Greater Understanding and Admiration between People”
Ambassador for the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Daw Yin Yin Myint, talks to Berlin GlobalJuly 01st, 2016
You have had a very successful career. You have previously served as Ambassador of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to Brunei, and since 2015 as the Ambassador of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to Germany. Of these positions, which have you found to be the most challenging and why?
I would rather say that the two ambassadorial posts for me – in Brunei and in Berlin – are (best described as) demanding. Working in both countries gave me great satisfaction as I could establish wonderful cordial relations with officials in personal and official realms. My tenure in Brunei coincided with Brunei’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2013 in which I played an important role assisting high level visits from Myanmar to Brunei including that of the President of Myanmar three times. As Ambassador of Myanmar to Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Finland and Estonia, the work is increasingly demanding with ever-widening bilateral relations.
How important do you think the role of Ambassador of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to Germany is?
In my opinion, the role of the Ambassador is very significant. An Ambassador could play a key role in promoting bilateral relations, trade and investment relations as well as people to people ties. With Germany, which is the strongest economy in the EU and also a State to look up to for its democratic and humanitarian values, Myanmar could benefit from Germany’s assistance in development aid, technology and investment if it can enhance better relations with Germany through the good office of its Ambassador.
How have the relations between Germany and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar changed over the years and in what ways is the Myanmar embassy in Berlin promoting Burmese culture?
In November 2010, Multi-party General elections were held across the entire nation. As a result, the first elected government led by President U Thein Sein took over state responsibilities in April 2011. During his tenure, Myanmar embarked on a comprehensive reform program in areas such as politics, economy, as well as in the public and private sectors. Normalisation of relations with the US and the EU took place in recognition of the reforms made by the government. Myanmar’s relations with Germany reached new heights with the landmark visits of Myanmar President U Thein Sein to Germany in 2013 and Germany’s President Joachim Gauck to Myanmar in 2014.
In 2015, the National League for Democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won the General Elections by landslide and formed the NLD led government in April 2016. Myanmar set a precedent for a peaceful transfer of power from the ruling USDP party led government to the government led by the opposition NLD, winning goodwill and recognition from the International community including Germany.
To promote Myanmar Culture, the Myanmar Embassy in Berlin took part in community-based cultural events such as the Southeast Asia Day organized by Hamburg University, the ASEAN Day organized by the Berlin ASEAN Committee, the Mekong Festival by the German and Mekong Countries Association and occasional paper-presentations on Myanmar history and development.
Through these events, the Embassy of Myanmar shares with the German people culinary delights, cultural dances and our way of life to shed light on our religion and the national groups of Myanmar. Once, a German orchestra performed together with Myanmar musical troupes at the Federal Foreign Office in 2014 in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of bilateral relations between Myanmar and Germany.
Your Excellency, how do you evaluate the current state of relations between Germany and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar? What do you consider to be the most important areas of cooperation between Myanmar and Germany, and in which areas do you think there is space for improvement?
Since April 2016, with the NLD-led government in place, Myanmar and Germany have written a new chapter in bilateral relations. The German leadership warmly welcomed the new government and pledged continued support for Myanmar’s development and the establishment of a truly democratic state. During the recent visit to Myanmar of Dr. Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development from 15th to 17th of June 2016, the Economic Minister pledged assistance to Germany in development matters, the establishment of vocational training centres, organic agricultural development in Myanmar, the promotions of bilateral trade and continued support for the on-going peace process in Myanmar to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs and State Counsellor, and also to President U Htin Kyaw. There is also space for improvement in cultural exchange and the exchange of intellectuals and students.
In your opinion, how can we use cultural diplomacy to strengthen the relations between the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Germany?
In my opinion, we can use cultural diplomacy to enhance greater understanding and admiration between peoples. Introduction to cultural artefacts that belong to one nation can raise awareness and appreciation of its cultural heritage by other nations and people. During the occasion that marked the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Myanmar and Germany in 2014, the golden letter that was sent by King Alaungpaya to George II, Prince Elector of Hannover and King of Great Britain in 1756 was presented to both the German and Myanmar public, thus highlighting one stage of history that connects Myanmar and Germany. Also the Goethe Institute was recently opened in Myanmar promoting German culture and language. Hopefully it is going to fill a gap. Even in the Myanmar diplomatic circle, there are no German-speaking diplomats.
Your career has been dedicated to international relations; what advice would you give to young people who are interested in pursuing a career in international relations or diplomacy?
I wish to advise young people who are interested in pursuing a career in international relations or diplomacy to stay informed about developments in world affairs; to have an open mind, to appreciate and adapt to cultural differences and to learn from history to make the world a better place to live in.
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Dominique Schmutzer, Berlin Global