YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar's president has urged the nation's millions-strong diaspora to return, state media reported Saturday, as the country seeks skilled workers to help smooth the passage of reform.
Several million people fled Myanmar's corrupted economy and political repression under army rule, leaving the nation desperately short of professionals to help it manage massive economic and political change.
Pledging to help emigres establish businesses as resource-rich Myanmar braces for a surge of foreign investment and an expected economic boom, President Thein Sein asked migrants who left for "various reasons" to return.
"Offers are being constantly extended to Myanmar citizens who have been abroad for various reasons to come back home," he was quoted as saying by English-language state newspaper the New Light of Myanmar
"Those who were abroad include technicians, experts, businessmen as well as those who are engaged in different careers.
"The state would render necessary assistance to them if they have any difficulties in doing business in the nation."
Many exiles have been emboldened to return by a surprising series of political and economic reforms since Thein Sein took office last year.
The diaspora -- a significant proportion of the roughly 60 million population -- include skilled workers who have made successful lives overseas.
The new military-backed civilian government that took power last year has surprised observers with a series of conciliatory gestures to its opponents.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi took a seat in parliament after her pro-democracy party swept April by-elections and hundreds of political prisoners have been freed, although many others remain behind bars.
The European Union has responded by suspending for one year a wide range of trade, economic and individual sanctions, although it left intact an arms embargo.
But the United States maintained its main sanctions on Myanmar, hoping to use them to press the regime to end ongoing ethnic violence, which has marred the regime's reformist image.