Myanmar shift to democracy not over: Minister

Myanmar has already done a lot to reconnect with the international community and win investment.

Davos: Myanmar has already done a lot to reconnect with the international community and win investment, but the return to democracy is not complete and more political and economic reforms are needed, its trade minister said on Saturday.

Myanmar has opened up to the outside world with astonishing speed since a civilian government took office last March after five decades of army rule, releasing political prisoners and launching democratic reforms.

The prospect of the end of Western sanctions imposed for human rights abuses has prompted a surge of interest from investors who view the former Burma as one of Asia`s last "frontier markets."

But asked whether he thought Myanmar has done enough to get US sanctions lifted, U Soe Thane told Reuters Television:

"A lot of things we have done, but many more we have to do in the near future. The democratic process is not finished yet."

"We have a lot of things to reform and lots of things have to change: laws, regulations and institutions, not only in the political sector but also in the economic sectors. But sanctions are up to them."

U Soe Thane, who leads Myanmar`s first official delegation at the World Economic Forum after five decades of isolation, said he was encouraged by dozens of meetings with leaders and executives at the annual gathering.

"I met a lot of people here, other ministers and CEOs, more than 20, and we discussed co-development," he said.

"Our location, our market and resource potential are very important for them so they are willing to invest in our country."

Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in video address to the forum earlier this week that the minister`s presence was a sign of positive changes in the country.

She said that the nation has not yet reached its "great transformation," but an election in April could bring that point closer and preparations for the polls kept her from attending the summit.

Years of economic mismanagement by the military coupled with US and European sanctions have left the economy in tatters with infrastructure that is rudimentary at best and about a third of its 60 million people living on a dollar a day.

But its rich gas deposits and other natural resources, large and young workforce, and a potential as a tourism destination barely touched by development are making it an attractive target for companies seeking to grow while mature economies struggle.

Japan`s trade minister led a group of executives at the start of the year and a similar delegation of US businesses is expected to visit the country next month.

Myanmar`s energy minister earlier this week told Reuters energy companies from Norway, Brazil, Russia and Japan were all interested in investments in the sector.

In Davos, Starwood Hotels & Resorts - which runs chains such as Westin, Sheraton and Le Meridien - and Marriott International both expressed interest in running hotels in Myanmar.

Bureau Report