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September 26, 2017

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IMF plans to open Myanmar office in Thailand

BANGKOK -- International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has announced a new office aimed at boosting its support for Myanmar as the impoverished nation grapples to revive its long-neglected economy.

Largarde said the IMF office, which will be based at the Bank of Thailand (BOT) in the Thai capital, demonstrates the fund's "new emphasis on capacity building and training."

She said she was "delighted to announce ... a new office here in Bangkok aimed at supporting our technical assistance for Myanmar," at a speech in the city late Thursday.

She did not specify the opening date for the new office, which will also provide help to Laos, but said the fund "wanted to strengthen" its support to both countries.

Relations between the IMF and Myanmar have improved since a nominally civilian government took over in March last year from a military junta that had ruled the country for nearly half a century.

In May, the IMF published its first report on Myanmar in decades, calling on authorities to step up reforms to enhance the business and investment climate, including modernizing the financial sector and liberalizing trade.

Myanmar was left impoverished by decades of economic mismanagement and isolation under army rule.

But international firms are clamoring for a foothold in the resource-rich nation, which has a cheap labour force and strategic position between China and India.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced an easing of economic sanctions on Myanmar, giving the green light to companies to invest, including in oil and gas.

Under the new rules U.S. companies will be able to enter into business with state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), but must notify the State Department within 60 days.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's party welcomed the move but called for more "transparency," a view echoed by U.S. Senator John McCain who warned Thursday that doing business with the state oil and gas giant could put democratic reforms at risk.

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