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Canada is to open an embassy in Burma for the first time, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced Friday, citing recent reforms as a reason for engagement with the longtime army-run nation.
“I am pleased to announce that Canada is planning to open an embassy in Burma,” Baird told reporters in a teleconference from Bangkok.
“There’s been an incredible amount of reform in the country in the past 18 months,” the minister said. “We’re impressed with that progress, but there’s still more progress that’s required.”
Baird’s comments came after meeting his Burmese counterparts at a business forum in the Cambodian tourist town Siem Reap. He is on a 15-day tour of the region.
Canada and its allies have pursued a policy of greater engagement with Burma as the Southeast Asian nation emerges from decades of military rule.
Ottawa has eased some of its strict sanctions against the country as a reward for a series of reforms including holding landmark by-elections that saw Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party elected to parliament.
But problems persist. Baird said he registered this week Canada’s “significant concern” with Burmese officials about reported violence against the Muslim minority in parts of the country.
“I urged them to resolve this peacefully,” he said.
Burma’s first ambassador in years was posted to Ottawa last year. Burma had not had representation in Canada since its last ambassador was recalled in 2004.
Canadian diplomats, meanwhile, operated from high commissions in Malaysia and Bangladesh and more recently from an embassy in Thailand, when dealing with Burma.
No date was announced for the opening of its new mission in Burma.
In March, Baird made the first visit by a Canadian foreign minister to Burma, and presented Suu Kyi with honorary Canadian citizenship.
The impoverished but resource-rich country is seen as a major potential growth market for international investors.