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Myanmar general to visit Sri Lanka

The shadowy and reclusive ruler of the military junta in Myanmar general Than Shwe is beginning a three-day visit to Sri Lanka from Thursday.

world Updated: Nov 11, 2009 23:12 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The shadowy and reclusive ruler of the military junta in Myanmar general Than Shwe is beginning a three-day visit to Sri Lanka from Thursday.

Than Shwe is likely to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Kandy in central Sri Lanka where he would be flown after landing at the international airport in Colombo on Thursday noon.

According to a foreign ministry spokesperson, a head of state from Myanmar is visiting Sri Lanka after 46 years. Prime Minister Unu was the last to visit in 1963.

The foreign ministry added that Rajapaksa had extended an invitation to Than Shwe during his recent visit to Myanmar.

"The most significant purpose of this visit for the President of Myanmar and his delegation is to pay homage to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. He will offer a Buddha Pooja and an arms giving for 50 monks both from Malwatte and Asigiri Chapters on the 13th November 2009," the ministry said in a statement.

Than Shwe is also expected to visit places of historical and religious importance in Anuradhapura in central Sri Lanka.

"The whole gamut of religious, economic and trade relations between the two countries would be discussed during the visit," the spokesperson said.

The statement added that during the visit, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was expected to be signed by the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and Shwedagon Temple of Myanmar.

Rajapaksa made a state visit to Myanmar at the invitation of the Head of State of Myanmar in June this year to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

According to agency reports, in early July 2009, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited Myanmar and held talks with General Than Shwe. The military junta rejected UN Secretary General's request to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. Shwe also commented on the upcoming 2010 election saying that by the time the UN chief next visits Myanmar "I will be an ordinary citizen, a lay person, and my colleagues will too because it will be a civilian government."