Burma Reforms Central to Asia’s World Economic Forum

By Thet Swe Aye 1 March 2013

RANGOON—Organizers of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia, which is held in Burma this year, announced that the event would center on the country’s planned transformation to an inclusive society and its integration into the region.

The main theme of the 22nd forum on June 5 to 7 is “Courageous Transformation for Inclusion and Integration” and its sub-themes are inclusive transformation, regional integration and regional solutions for global resilience, WEF said in a press release on Friday.

The event will be held in Burma’s political capital Naypyidaw—constructed by the previous military junta—and not in its commercial center Rangoon.

WEF announced last year that it had chosen Burma as a venue for its annual East Asia forum because of “a series of bold economic and political reforms” by its government since 2011.

At a press conference at Rangoon’s Traders Hotel to mark the opening of media accreditation for the event, WEF Asia head Sushent Palakurthi Rao said, “We think that now is a very important time in Myanmar’s transformation and we will be the first platform to bring together leaders not only from the economy and from government, but also from civil society.”

“And for the Burmese government as a host for WEF, it can take part in public and private discussions and can invite world leaders,” he said on Friday.

The event in Naypyidaw will be “a leading international gathering ofsenior decision-makers from industry, government, academia and civilsociety,” a WEF release said, adding that it “will be an unrivalled opportunity to understand and to shape Myanmar’s ongoing reforms and reconciliation process.” More than 1,000 participants are expected.

In May 2012, the forum was held in Bangkok and Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung Suu Kyi gave a speech at the event—during her first trip abroad in decades—to great acclaim. Burma’s President Thein Sein also made a well-received appearance.

The upcoming WEF event coincides with a surge in international interests in investment and business opportunities in Burma, after international economic sanctions against the resource-rich, under-developed country were lifted early last year.

Since mid-2012, several major international business conferences have been organized in the country, focusing on sectors such as oil and gas, telecom and real estate.

Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze.