Swiss School in Bangkok: RIS Swiss Section
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Myanmar
In October 2012, Switzerland opened an embassy in Yangon and launched its Swiss Cooperation Strategy Myanmar 2013–17, which was later revised and extended until 2023. By 2020, development, trade and political relations between the two countries had grown stronger. After the military seized power on 1 February 2021, contact with the de facto authorities was restricted and development cooperation and humanitarian aid programmes were adapted.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Since its embassy was opened in 2012, Switzerland has supported the transition and peace process as well as Myanmar's socio-economic development. There were political consultations between the two countries on a regular basis up to 2020, including high-level meetings at regular intervals. In September 2014, President U Thein Sein made an official visit to Switzerland. He was the first head of state of Myanmar to do so.
On 1 February 2021, the military seized power in Myanmar, putting an abrupt end to a decade of political and economic opening. Since then the country has been mired in a severe political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis.
Switzerland strongly condemned the coup d'état and halted its financial and technical cooperation with the junta. In addition, Switzerland has been calling for a return to the democratic process and continuing its engagement
in Myanmar. Over the last year, this engagement has been redirected in significant ways, so as to reflect the new circumstances. One example of this is the cooperation strategy's portfolio, which has been adapted to focus to an even greater extent on meeting the population's basic needs and reducing conflict. Switzerland has attached importance to strengthening partnerships with ethnic service providers, civil society, the United Nations and the private sector.
The focus of Swiss cooperation in 2022 is on alleviating humanitarian distress, strengthening local communities' resilience, reducing violence and promoting dialogue. Switzerland pursues these goals through diplomacy, humanitarian aid, development cooperation and peacebuilding.
The Regional Consular Centre in Bangkok handles all consular affairs.
In May 2012, Switzerland lifted most of the sanctions that had been imposed as a result of human rights violations while leaving in place the embargo on arms and repressive goods. In 2018 the Federal Council again tightened sanctions against Myanmar in view of its concerns over systematic human rights violations. In response to the coup d'état of 1 February 2021, the Federal Council imposed additional sanctions aligned to the EU's decisions – financial sanctions and travel restrictions targeting individuals and business conglomerates controlled by the military.
In 2020 Switzerland's exports – mainly pharmaceutical and watchmaking goods – to Myanmar were worth CHF 14 million. Imports from Myanmar during the same year amounted to almost CHF 140 million. They were mainly textiles and precious stones and metals. The military takeover of 1 February 2021 is likely to reduce trade.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists who are citizens of Myanmar can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland has had a human security adviser stationed in Myanmar since 2012. This advisor is responsible for a programme that promotes peace and human security. Within the framework of the programme, Switzerland supports processes that help the parties to the conflict to peacefully manage the conflict or reduce violence, that promote dialogue and strengthen respect for human rights.
Switzerland works directly with the parties concerned and provides assistance for ceasefire and peace negotiations. Thanks to Switzerland's tradition as an impartial mediator, all parties accept its role in this regard. Where necessary, Switzerland cooperates with external experts or third parties.
Since the 1 February 2021 coup d'état, Switzerland has maintained contact with all parties to the conflict in order to identify opportunities to resolve the conflict peacefully and reduce violence and to call on the military to resume dialogue and restore the democratic process.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Swiss Humanitarian Aid has been active in Myanmar since 1994. Since 2012, Switzerland's activities in Myanmar have pursued an approach that blends development cooperation, humanitarian aid, peacebuilding and diplomacy. The Swiss Cooperation Programme in Myanmar 2019–23 outlines this approach. The programme focuses on the following areas:
- Peace, good governance and the protection of people and communities in need
- Vocational and professional education and training, and market development
There are also cross-cutting themes: gender equality and good governance as well as disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change. Since the military seized power on 1 February 2021, the cooperation programme has been geared more towards the local communities' basic needs.
Swiss nationals in Myanmar
At the end of 2021, there were 82 Swiss citizens living in Myanmar according to statistics on the Swiss abroad.
History of bilateral relations
The history of Myanmar, formerly referred to as Burma, started in the 11th century in the form of various kingdoms. From 1824 to 1948, Myanmar was a British colony. Right after its independence, Switzerland recognised its statehood. Switzerland and Myanmar have maintained diplomatic relations since 1956. From 1957 to 1965, there was an honorary consulate in the capital, Rangoon (Yangon). In 2012, given the country's democratic transition and opening up policy, Switzerland opened an embassy in Yangon.