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01.06.2012 - Press release
Switzerland to open an embassy in Myanmar

Switzerland will open an embassy in Myanmar in the summer of this year. This step is intended as an acknowledgement of the country's great potential, both economically and as a tourist destination. It also does justice to Myanmar's growing openness to democracy and political change following half a century of authoritarian rule. Switzerland will also strengthen its development cooperation to support the country’s transition to democracy.

Last year Myanmar's military government formally handed over its official functions and duties to a civilian government, which has introduced political change and a gradual opening of the country. With that handover, half a century of uncompromising and authoritarian military rule came to an end. Today the Federal Council has decided to respond to the transformation in Myanmar by opening an embassy. Up to now Switzerland's interests there have been represented from its embassy in Bangkok.

The establishment of diplomatic representation in Myanmar not only recognises the democratic progress made to date and encourages further progress but is also motivated by solid interests. As a country located between India and China, a democratic Myanmar will attain increasing geostrategic importance politically. The country has considerable natural resources and good prospects of building on the economic success of bygone eras – following its independence in 1948 Myanmar was the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia and was considered the leading producer and exporter of rice during the 1950s. In addition, tourism is expected to enjoy a massive upswing there.

For these reasons, it can be assumed that the presence of Swiss citizens will increase in Myanmar as well, and the work required to support them is a further argument in favour of opening an embassy.

To support the country in its ongoing transition toward democracy, Switzerland will strengthen its development cooperation with Myanmar. The volume of Swiss development cooperation will increase to approximately CHF 25 million in the next four years. An agricultural and food security programme is envisaged as well as other programmes in the areas of vocational training and mine-clearing.

Among the 24 countries which now have embassies in Myanmar are the USA, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, China, Russia and the ASEAN nations. The new Swiss mission in Myanmar will primarily pursue tasks related to safeguarding Switzerland's interests. Consular services will continue to be provided from the Regional Consular Centre in Bangkok. The cooperation office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will be integrated in the Swiss embassy in Myanmar in 2013. Switzerland presently has a humanitarian programme office in Rangoon.

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