Wed, Jul 02, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Businessman admonishes MOFA

A PLEA A DPP legislator and a Taiwanese entrepreneur who lives in Myanmar called on the government to use its ties with the business community to improve diplomatic ties

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A lawmaker yesterday said that the government should employ the power of overseas Taiwanese business people to break through diplomatic difficulties.

"The government should realize that overseas Taiwanese businessmen could be a great force in helping Taiwan advance diplomatically," said DPP Legislator Chang Ching-fang (張清芳).

Chang said that the civilians could work in support of foreign missions to increase non-governmental exchanges.

"Using ties with the business community to enhance the government's diplomatic plans should be an immediate priority," Chang said.

Chang made his remark in a press conference when he accompanied a Taiwanese businessman stationed in Myanmar who pointed out that Taiwan-Myanmar exchanges need to be improved.

Lin Chuan-lian (林權鍊), a Taiwanese businessman based in Yangon, said that 500 Taiwanese nationals running businesses there had been unable to get protection from Taiwan's de facto diplomatic office in Myanmar.

When Taiwanese nationals face problems in the Southeast Asian country, they are often forced, because of a lack of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Myanmar, to seek help from the Chinese embassy, Lin said.

He also complained that the government had missed a chance to improve bilateral ties with Yangon.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to catch the opportunity last December when I conveyed a message from authorities of Myanmar that the two countries should work to further advance diplomatic exchanges," Lin said.

The ministry however has ignored this opportunity for the past seven months, and bilateral ties have suffered as a result, Lin said.

Lin said he would strive to improve Taiwan-Myanmar relations and urged the government to work toward the same goal.

"The diplomatic standstill has forced many Taiwanese businessmen to succumb to protection offered by Chinese authorities when the businessmen get into trouble there. This is a tragedy for overseas Taiwanese," Lin said.

Lin said he hoped the government will intensify official contact with Yangon and improve safeguards for Taiwanese nationals in Myanmar.

The lawmaker also said that the government should reconsider whether Taiwan's de facto office in Bangkok will be allowed to process visa applications filed from Myanmar.

"The policy, which came into effect at the beginning of this year, has increased the financial burden on most of the 3 million overseas Chinese and Taiwanese business people in Myanmar because of their travel expenses to Thailand when submitting a visa application," Chang said.

Travel expenses are burdensome to many overseas Chinese in Myanmar. These people are confronting poverty and a number of them want to send their offspring to Taiwan for an education but they have to spend more money to apply for a visa, he said.

Chang urged the government to map out a plan for solidifying ties with Myanmar while Lin said the Myanmar government was still open to improving relations with Taiwan.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦) said the ministry appreciated the "passion" of Taiwanese individuals intending to boost ties between Taiwan and countries that do not recognize Taiwan diplomatically.

But he declined to comment on bilateral ties between Taiwan and Myanmar, saying it's the ministry's duty to expand relations with countries that do not recognize Taiwan.

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