Overwhelming Interest in Burma/Myanmar

The breakfast meeting on Wednesday 22 February 2012 of the Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce about Burma with the guest speaker H.E. Mikael Hemniti Winther, Danish Ambassador to Burma/Myanmar, attracted a record number of participants from not only the Danish but also the Thai-Swedish, Thai-Norwegian and Thai-Finnish Chamber of Commerce.

The meeting room at Grand Millennium Sukhumvit was packed with 85 attentively listening businessmen interested in possibly exploring business opportunities in the rapidly opening country.

According to the Ambassador, Burma remains a very poor country although rich in natural resources. But since last year its economic growth has been measured at 5%. The country is interesting among others because of the cheap cost of labor although most of the workforce is uneducated. The universities have been shut down for a decade, resulting in the young generation speaking poorer English than the older generations.

As a reward for the Burmese government’s small step towards political reform, EU is planning to remove some of the restrictions on doing business with Burma/Myanmar while the US is less likely to lift their sanctions in the near future, the Ambassador said. 

A challenge that businessmen will face in Burma is that there is no clear legal framework for foreign investors. The law is vague, and sometimes difficult to interpret, the Ambassador warned.

The Ambassador emphasized the importance of the question, whether the country would be able to solve the armed conflict that the army is fighting with several of the country’s many ethnic groups. This issue has largely been overlooked in the international media but is crucial as the country is opening up to the outside world because these groups are typically occupying the areas up to the borders to Burma’s neighbors, Thailand, China and Bangladesh.

The meeting was opened by Executive Director Savija Korslund of the Danish Thai Chamber of Commerce. After the speech the Ambassador was bombarded with a lot of different and often very specific questions. Eventually, President Peter Romhild of the Danish Thai Chamber of Commerce reluctantly called the meeting to an end and gave Mikael H. Winther a small gift for sharing his unique insight with the members.

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