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A senior Burmese delegation led by the powerful House speaker Shwe Mann arrived in Moscow on Saturday for what state media billed a ‘fact finding’ mission to assess Russia’s parliamentary model.
The trip prompted the Medvedev administration’s first public acknowledgement of the new Burmese government, which came to power in March. A foreign ministry statement at the weekend noted that Russian officials “expressed satisfaction with the program for political reforms … and transition to civilian rule” in Burma.
Also in the delegation were Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint and Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo. Shwe Mann said on Friday that the visit was part of an attempt to build the capacity of Burmese government officials through “self-study, discussions and workshops”, that included a trip to Cambodia in April.
It is not the first time Shwe Mann has visited Moscow – in 2006, during his tenure as joint chief of staff of the Burmese army, he made a secretive trip there with then Vice-Senior General Maung Aye to bid for assistance in the development of a nuclear reactor and heavy weaponry.
Russia is known to have provided training programmes for Burmese military technicians and scientists, and is a leading arms supplier to Naypyidaw, having in the past provided surface-to-air missiles.
But it is also a leading proponent of the ‘disciplined democracy’ model that Burmese officials have occasionally used to clarify questions about their so-called transition to civilian rule.
The foreign ministry statement talked of “possibilities of intensifying the political dialogue” between the two countries with suggestions that Russia is looking to develop a stronger security presence in Southeast Asia.
“In the context of discussions on the international agenda special attention was paid to the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and coordination of positions on topical problems of the world, above all – to building there a new security architecture based on multilateral approaches to deepening cooperation between Russia and the Association of South-East Asian Nations,” it said.