First statement of the ambassador of France to Myanmar, Mr. Christian Lechervy
Dear friends of France in Myanmar,
It is with great enthusiasm and interest that I take up my duties as Ambassador of France to Myanmar, after a career largely dedicated to Asian and strategic issues. The President of the French Republic has entrusted me with the responsibility of continuing to strengthen a bilateral relation that is now based on our support for the government and the democratic transition that Myanmar has experienced for several years. This support requires the development of our cooperation in many areas, including cultural, educational, economic, human development and humanitarian action.
France is a country open to the world, deeply rooted in the European Union, and which has chosen the path of multilateralism. Our action is based on the values of peace, democracy and respect for human rights, but also on those relating to the protection of our environment disrupted by climate change. Today, Myanmar faces major challenges in living in peace, fighting poverty and promoting equitable and sustainable social and economic development. The promotion of these values is therefore of particular importance in this context.
The entire French community in this country, alongside the Myanmar people, is dealing with the economic and security constraints that the country has faced for many years. Our French community has seen a steady increase which number has doubled in 5 years. Even if this growth has stalled since 2017, it is necessary to adapt our capacities to the evolution that can be expected in the coming years. In this perspective, improving the quality of our services to our visitors is an essential challenge for the French Embassy. A new building complex is under construction. It will make it easier to welcome the French community and visa applicants. This important work will be completed in the first half of 2019.
France has been a major player in Myanmar’s cultural life for many years, thanks to the Institut français de Birmanie in Yangon and the French Cultural Centre in Mandalay. They provide French classes to more than 800 students each year. The Francophonie must be strengthened in Myanmar, while the country has chosen to open up and upgrade its educational system. The French international high school “Lycée Français International Joseph Kessel” in Yangon will move to new facilities in the coming months. It will be able to accommodate several hundred students for the coming years. Our ambition is to be able to educate Myanmar students in French, and thus offer them the opportunity to study in France and anywhere around the world. Education is not only the main vehicle for development but also an essential tool to strengthen the relation between our two countries.
The Institut français de Birmanie has made it a priority to promote French excellence in all fields, particularly in digital creation, in response to the tremendous growth of new technologies in Myanmar. The Institut français will organize a "digital" month from November 1st to December 1st 2018 with the second edition of the festival "Pix’Art / Innovation is Yours". In cooperation with various partners, events dedicated to digital cultures will be proposed: an exhibition on the topic of literary innovations based on new technologies ("Machines à lire"); a show by the magician Moulla featuring everyday technological objects; the performance of the accordionist Pascal Contet who uses his instrument to create a visual atmosphere; virtual reality spaces to project and immerse oneself among the pagodas of Bagan ("VR Lounge"); and digital manufacturing workshops ("Fab-Lab") to learn how to make and use simple technological objects or to print in 3D.
In the Myanmar context as you know it, I am fully aware that the Embassy’s role as an intermediary with the authorities is essential to remove regulatory and phytosanitary barriers to trade and investments, to back our companies’ administrative and commercial efforts and advance their negotiations. Given that economic diplomacy is a priority for the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, please be aware that I will always be at your side to relay your concerns to the Myanmar authorities at the highest level and that the economic department of this embassy will remain fully mobilized to assist you. The same applies to Business France office, which supports French companies, particularly small and medium enterprises, wishing to seize new market opportunities.
For my first field trip, I will travel to Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, at the end of November 2018. I will lead a trade delegation of about 15 French companies to present their expertise - particularly in energy, construction and hospitality - to the Shan State government and the local business community. In particular, I will be accompanied by Mr. Philippe Battle, Chairman of the Myanmar Committee of the French Foreign Trade Advisors, and Ms. Sarah Lubeigt, President of the France-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. These two institutions contribute, through their dynamism and professionalism, to the promotion and influence of France in Myanmar. I would like to praise their resolute action for the benefit of our companies.
I will also be in Mandalay on December 5th to inaugurate the third meeting dedicated to urban policies, which this year will focus on sanitation issues. This workshop - organized in collaboration with a non-profit association GRET - will be held from December 5th to 7th, 2018. It will bring together decision-makers from 19 urban communities in Myanmar and French experts from the public and private sectors, as well as officials from the Union Ministries of Health and Environment. Prior to this workshop, Business France will organize professional meetings on December 4th between a delegation of French companies in the sanitation sector and their potential partners in Mandalay.
This "urban cycle" supplements our official development assistance. The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has been operating in Myanmar since 2012. The volume of its activities has doubled over the 2016-2018 period, with €200 million in sovereign loans in the priority sectors of urban development, energy, management, health and water resources. AFD will continue to work on these priorities for the 2018-2022 period, through its various tools and methods of intervention (sovereign loans, grants, co-financing). It will mobilize its resources to strengthen the capacities of actors, promote innovation, integrate the challenges of climate change and the sustainable management of natural resources into development actions, but also to support civil society and non-governmental organizations.
Relations between France and Myanmar are dense and benefit from the country’s growth momentum, despite the current difficulties.
I need all your confidence and support to work together to strengthen the Franco-Myanmar relation, but also to encourage Myanmar on the path towards democracy, peace and development. To achieve this, you can count on my commitment and that of the embassy’s teams. I look forward to many opportunities to interact and work with you.