Philippines praises Myanmar’s reforms, seeks closer ties
MANILA THE Philippines — once one of the harshest critics of Myanmar’s human rights record — on Thursday praised the country’s reforms over the past year and sought closer trade and political ties.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III also told Myanmar’s visiting top diplomat, Wunna Maung Lwin, that the Philippines was ready to help share lessons it has learned in its own difficult transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Aquino and the Myanmar foreign minister “noted that the Philippines also went through a transition to democracy and that we are ready to share our experience with Myanmar if it will help them in their own transition,” presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang said.
An army-backed “people power” revolt toppled Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 in a historic uprising that became a harbinger of change in authoritarian regimes worldwide. That uprising was led by the current president’s mother, democracy icon Corazon Aquino, who was catapulted to power after Marcos fell.
The Philippines, however, has faced many challenges, including military unrest, widespread poverty, corruption and political turbulence following the 1986 uprising.
Carandang said recent sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims in western Myanmar was not discussed by Aquino and Wunna Maung Lwin.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said he may raise the issue when he meets his Myanmar counterpart on Friday.
The Philippines used to be the most vocal critic of Myanmar’s dismal human rights record in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a conservative political and trade bloc to which both nations belong.
In a measure of Myanmar’s reversal of fortune, the Philippines has sought to deepen its ties with the once-pariah nation in political cooperation, trade, investment, agriculture, tourism and air services, Philippine officials said.
Aside from deeper ties, human rights — once a taboo subject — was also in the agenda of Aquino’s discussions with the Myanmar diplomat, presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.
Philippine human rights officials plan to visit Myanmar to offer advise and training to a recentlyestablished rights commission in the country, Filipino officials said.