Despite Critical Remarks, Malaysia Keen to Invest in Myanmar

By Aung Thiha 22 August 2019

YANGON—Depite Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks criticizing Myanmar’s political and military actions in Rakhine State, Malaysia will maintain its economic ties with Myanmar, Malaysian Ambassador to Myanmar Zahairi Baharim said at a press conference concerning the upcoming Malaysia-Myanmar Connect 2019 business forum meant to increase economic engagement between two countries.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency in July, the Malaysian Prime Minister was quoted as saying that the Rohingya in western Myanmar faced “massacre or genocide” and that “they should either be treated as nationals, or they should be given their territory to form their own state.”

Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry in August met the Malaysian ambassador and expressed “dismay and objected” to the Malaysian leader’s comments.

Though Malaysia has issued critical statements about the Rohingya issue, it wants Myanmar to become a developed ASEAN economy, the Malaysian Ambassador said.

“Politics don’t [create jobs], only economies create jobs. Only when there is improved economic cooperation will political relations improve,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“Myanmar needs to show that it has economic opportunities. People from outside the country must be brought to Yangon or Naypyitaw to see with their own eyes that what they have heard about Myanmar is not true. Seeing is believing,” he added.

The Malaysia-Myanmar Connect 2019 will be held in Yangon on August 30 to boost economic cooperation between the two countries, according to the Malaysian Embassy.

According to the Malaysia-Myanmar Business Chamber, 120 regional and private business projects worth a potential US$500 million in eight key industries—manufacturing, textiles, power generation and distribution, tourism, education, fisheries and food processing, healthcare and infrastructure—will be highlighted at the event.

According to Gillbert Lee, president of the Malaysian-Myanmar Business Chamber, Malaysian businesspeople are interested in investing in Myanmar’s IT and manufacturing sectors especially.

“In the manufacturing sector, Myanmar has labor and raw materials, and Malaysian businessmen have markets. If the two countries can cooperate in such a sector, there will be increased opportunities for business in Myanmar,” he said.

At present, Malaysia is the eighth largest investor in Myanmar, with 66 Malaysian companies investing nearly US$2 billion in the country.

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