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INDONESIA-MYANMAR BILATERAL RELATIONS

Indonesia and Myanmar are two neighbourly countries which are located in Southeast Asia. The distance between both countries is roughly about 350 miles. Based on their independence histories and emotional links, both countries have a very special relation.

Both countries have a longstanding relation since the era of their struggle for independence. Indonesia succeeded to declare independence in 1945, and Myanmar obtained independence in 1948. The two countries officially established diplomatic relation on 27 December 1949, or over a year after Myanmar's independence which fall on 4 January 1948. The establishment of diplomatic relation between the two countries was highlighted by the opening of "Indonesian House" in Yangon, which was later upgraded into the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia on April 1950. At that time, President Soekarno hailed Myanmar as "a comrade in struggling and fulfilling true independence".

Since then, the two nations have started joint cooperation in many fields, such as politics, economy, socio-culture, defense and security as well. Indonesia has considered Myanmar as an independent struggling partner, which shown by the Treaty of Friendship signed in 1951. The treaty was later ratified by Indonesia on 2 October 1952, through Law No.18/1952 on the Approval of the Treaty of Friendship Between the Republic of Indonesia and the Union of Burma. The diplomatic relations between the two countries have already reached the 60th year on 27 December 2009. Throughout these year, relations between Myanmar and Indonesia have been based on mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual support as is evident at regional and international forums.

Politically, Myanmar has been a supporter of Indonesia's struggle for independence. In 1947, Myanmar, then under transitional government, requested the Indian Government to hold Conference on Indonesian Affairs in New Delhi. On 23 March – 2 April 1947, India held Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi, India, in which Myanmar, still under British colonial rule, showed its support by condemning Dutch military aggression.

Yet another proof of Myanmar's support for Indonesia's struggle for independence was when Myanmar allowed Indonesia Dakota RI-001 "Seulawah" aircraft, donated by Acehnese people, to land at the then called Rangoon's Mingaladon Airport on 26 January 1949 and was rented by Union of Burma Airways. The aircraft was flown from Calcutta, India, and unable to land in any airports in Java and Sumatra due to Dutch bombardment. This historical event has been remembered as the birth of Garuda Indonesia Airways. Meanwhile, one of Garuda Indonesian Airways' aircraft, the RI-007, now sits at the Museum of the Armed Forces in Yangon, Myanmar.

Relations between Indonesia and Myanmar is still well-tied, indicated by the exchange of visits by the leaders of both countries. President Soeharto paid a visit to Myanmar on 26 November 1972, on 22-29 August 1974, and on 23-25 February 1997. On the other hand, General Ne Win paid a visit to Indonesia on 11-14 June 1973 and on 8-13 June 1974. General Ne Win also paid a personal visit to Indonesia on 23-25 September 1997 at the invitation of President Soeharto. Meanwhile, Senior General Than Shwe also paid a visit to Indonesia on 5-8 June 1995, November 1996, and on April 2005.

Other indication of the improvement of Indonesia-Myanmar relationship is the visit of three Indonesian Presidents to Myanmar : President Abdurrahman Wahid on 7 November 1999, President Megawati Soekarnoputri on 24 August 2001, and President Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on 1-2 March 2006. Myanmar Prime Minister General Thein Sein paid an official visit to Indonesia on 16-17 March 2009.

Relations between Indonesia and Myanmar has grown significantly since Myanmar became a member of ASEAN in 1997. Indonesia itself was one of ASEAN member nations that support the inclusion of Myanmar into ASEAN. Indonesia also supports Myanmar's democratization process.

During the visit of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia-Myanmar bilateral relations have entered a new dawn when N. Hassan Wirajuda, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, and U Nyan Win, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Union of Myanmar, signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) on Bilateral Cooperation Between Myanmar and Indonesia on 1 March 2006 in Yangon. The MOU has enabled Indonesia and Myanmar to promote bilateral cooperation in all sectors. The first meeting of the Joint Commission was held in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 14-15 February 2007. The meeting has produced an "Agreed Minutes" which contains the details of cooperation agreements in the sectors of defense and security, economy, trade and investment, energy and mines, forestry, agriculture, fisheries, transportation, education and training, and tourism. The second meeting was scheduled to be held in 2008, but so far there is no date confirmation.

Indonesia has also made a contribution in the establishment of Tripartite Core Group (TCG) to help the victims of cyclone Nargis which struck Ayeyawaddy Delta on 2 May 2008.