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Visa coming to Myanmar

By Kevin Voigt, CNN
August 17, 2012 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
This pcture taken on June 1, 2012 shows a tourist visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
This pcture taken on June 1, 2012 shows a tourist visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Credit card giant Visa has announced it is entering the Myanmar market
  • Comes in the wake of the growing number of tourists coming to the Southeast Asian nation
  • Western nations have relaxed restrictions on Myanmar since the nation began political reforms

(CNN) -- In a sign of the world's growing rapprochement with Mynamar, credit card giant Visa has announced it is entering the market of the once isolated Southeast Asian nation.

"The first priority for Myanmar will be preparing for the influx of international visitors resulting from the relaxation of international sanctions," the company said in a press release Friday.

"With Yangon's hotels and major tourist attractions now regularly full and the country's airports seeing increased passenger numbers, connection to the global economy is a key element in opening up the market."

Both the Southeast Asian Games and World Economic Forum on East Asia are scheduled to be held in Myanmar -- also known as Burma -- next year, another reason the credit card company is starting workshops at Myanmar banks to introduce electronic payments to the country, said Peter Maher, Visa Group country manager for Southeast Asia and Australasia.

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The country has undertaken recent reforms, including the release of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now a member of parliament and leader of a political opposition group.

Suu Kyi urged participants at the World Economic Forum in Bangkok in July to invest in Myanmar's development. But she also cautioned them to keep a healthy skepticism about the reforms which, she said, are not irreversible.

The United States, the European Union and others are easing long-standing sanctions on the country, allowing their citizens to directly invest in Myanmar. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the nation last December, and British Prime Minister David Cameron traveled to Yangon in April.

Coca-Cola, the world's largest beverage company, announced plans in June to return to the country for the first time in 60 years.

The nation, which lies between China and India, has large reserves of oil, gas and other natural resources.

"You come in early, you may stub your toe, make mistakes," David La Prade, head of USR Drilling Services, told CNN at a recent oil and gas conference in Yangon.

"All potential new frontiers are full of business landmines, but you've got to come in early to have that opportunity."

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