Speech by Timo Soini on the occasion of the inauguration of the Embassy of Finland in Yangon

Speech by Timo Soini on the occasion of the inauguration of the Embassy of Finland in Yangon on 21.11.2017

Honourable minister U Thant Sin Maung, Ambassador, distinguished Guests,

It is an honour and a privilege to be in the fascinating country of Myanmar, and to be able to open Finland's embassy here in Yangon. Yesterday, I had a very productive meeting with the State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I was grateful to hear her assessment of the current situation in Myanmar. And I was able to convey to her our most important messages.

In our meeting, I assured her that Finland will continue to support Myanmar in its efforts for sustainable peace and reconciliation, and the democratic process.

For Finland, the Rakhine situation is important. We call for:

Full respect for human rights.

An independent investigation into the human rights abuses.

And a safe return of refugees to their homes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year, we are celebrating the centenary of Finland’s independence. One hundred years ago, the beginnings of our state were not easy. A few months after proclaiming her independence, Finland experienced a bloody civil war.

The country was poor, scarred by violence, and its independence was in constant danger. But there were a few good building blocks.

Respect for the Rule of Law, not "the Law of the Rulers".

Access to education for every girl and every boy.

Belief in the equality between women and men.

These principles have carried us to prosperity and stability.  

Let me be very clear. Finland is by no means a perfect success. We face increasing marginalisation of young men. Unemployment is too high. Polarisation of views into extremes, made worse by the social media, hurts our sense of community.

As political leaders, our duty is to listen to people's concerns. And at the same time, our obligation is to protect everyone in our territory.

Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the great honour today to officially open the Embassy of Finland in Yangon.

Diplomatic ties between Myanmar and Finland were established in 1954, and since then Finland´s ambassador in Bangkok has also been accredited to Myanmar.

In 2012, Finland started supporting Myanmar peace process. Our aim is to strengthening the capacity of all actors in the peace process, and promotion of inclusive dialogue and peacebuilding efforts.

In 2014, Finland opened a diplomatic mission in Yangon, under the embassy in Bangkok. Today, Myanmar is a priority country for Finnish development and trade cooperation.

We decided to upgrade the Diplomatic Mission in Yangonto a full Embassy. Today we are celebrating this historic milestone in the relations between our two countries. There have been regular ministerial visits in the past few years, and several business delegations have visited Myanmar and Finland. Through the opening of our embassy in Yangon, I look forward to more high-level exchanges and business cooperation initiatives, and would like to express a warm welcome to all friends of Finland to visit our country.

In development cooperation, we have supported the census in 2014, preparation of the National Environmental Policy and capacity development in the mining sector, among others. Our country strategy for bilateral development cooperation builds on discussions with the Government of Myanmar and with development partners. It outlines Finland's support to : peace and democratic governance; forest governance; and education. Special emphasis is placed on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups; and on the reduction of inequality, with specific attention to the equality between women and men.

Finland also supports the work of multilateral actors such as the EU, UN, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Our humanitarian assistance has been increasing over the years.

Furthermore, Finland is also supporting cooperation between a number of Finnish NGOs, government institutions and universities with various counterparts in Myanmar.

The interest by Finnish companies in Myanmar has grown. Finpro established an office in Yangon in 2016, in order to further facilitate trade and investment. Finnfund has been active in looking for private sector investments opportunities in Myanmar, to be supported by public development funds.

New opportunities for cooperation through Finnish private sector actors are evolving through the new development instrument, Public Sector Investment Facility.

Let me also mention some two thousand Burmese who now live in Finland, as a respected and well-integrated community of new Finns.

It goes without saying that there are boundless opportunities in developing people to people contacts through tourism. For travelers, Myanmar is a truly a uniquely rich and beautiful country.

Dear Friends,

We live in an increasingly interconnected world. Political turning points in one part of the world are felt everywhere else almost immediately.

Finland and Myanmar are far from each other geographically and economically.  But this is rapidly changing. Our future challenges are the same. Hence, we need to combine our efforts to counter them.

As the foreign minister of Finland, I want to assure our Burmese friends: we want to help, and we want to co-operate. Myanmar is going through dangerous times, and faces some extremely difficult issues. We have no illusions about how complex the situation is.

We will continue to support Myanmar in every way we can, as we have tried to help with the enormously important and admirable peace process. And with education, equal opportunities for everyone, and sustainable development. 

Most of all, we sincerely hope that the government of Myanmar can muster all it takes to make this beautiful land as a stable, democratic and prosperous place.

Thank you very much.