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Myanmar President Arrives for Malaysia Visit

Myanmar President Thein Sein (Photo: Agence France-Presse)

March 13, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: Myanmar President Thein Sein arrived in Kuala Lumpur today for a two-day stay, his first state visit to Malaysia.

He will hold talks on Friday with his counterpart, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Malaysia's government said the two leaders would discuss the state of bilateral relations as well as issues of regional concern, but otherwise has offered few specifics.

Malaysia is this year's chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and host of its annual summits, having assumed the mantle from 2014 chair Myanmar.

Myanmar is only Malaysia's 38th-largest trading partner globally, and seventh-largest within ASEAN, according to Malaysian data.

Total bilateral trade in 2014 reached $864 million, based on current exchange rates.

But Malaysian officials have said the nascent trade relationship is growing fast and have expressed a desire for Malaysian firms to take advantage of Myanmar's opening-up by moving into its markets.

Myanmar is gradually emerging from decades of authoritarian rule and has embarked on democratic reforms that have won praise abroad, though some observers warn they appear to be stalling.

Hundreds of thousands of Myanmar migrants are estimated to be working, many illegally, in more-developed Malaysia.

Tens of thousands of those are Muslim ethnic Rohingya who have fled what they call decades of oppression in majority-Buddhist Myanmar.

The Rohingya exodus has picked up since Muslim-Buddhist bloodshed erupted in 2012 in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine.

A number of killings in Malaysia last year involving Myanmar nationals are suspected by police to be linked to the ethnic strife back home.

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