Ethnic Peace is My Priority: Thein Sein
covering burma and southeast asia
Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ethnic Peace is My Priority: Thein Sein

By SAW YAN NAING / THE IRRAWADDY Thursday, March 1, 2012

Karen soldiers on parade in Karen State. (Photo: Reuters)

Burmese President Thein Sein said young ethnic people should “swap guns for laptops” and be allowed their decades-demanded right to get involved in our “all inclusive political process.”

In a speech before the Union Parliament to mark the first anniversary of his new government taking office, Thein Sein highlighted the importance of national reconciliation amongst Burma's diverse tapestry of ethnic minorities.

“As our country is a Union nation, we must let all ethnic minorities get equally involved in the political process,” said Thein Sein on Thursday. “It is necessary that we, the current government, help to end the misunderstanding and mistrust between ethnic groups and the government.“

“According to a young ethnic armed leader, young ethnic armed people aged 18 and 19 often say they also want to hold laptops, computers. I feel very sad to hear this. I have decided to eliminate all these misfortunes during my government administration.

“It is necessary to help ethnic young people who hold guns to be able to hold laptops and try to live a good life,” he added.

And Thein Sein said that he felt responsible for making the lost dreams of long-suffering ethnic people come true, and that he has been in contact with rebel groups in order to achieve this.

“We have no trick on the path in the direction of the peace,” he said. “We conduct peace deals based on the spirit of Panglong Agreement.”

The Panglong Agreement was signed by Burmese independence hero Aung San and the Shan, Kachin, and Chin peoples in 1947. The agreement accepted the “full autonomy in internal administration for the frontier areas” and envisioned the creation of independent states for ethnic groups within a federal government.

The president also gave assurances that government soldiers have been instructed to stop attacks against ethnic armed groups, and that Commander-in-Chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing has also ordered his troops to stop hostilities.

“The armed conflicts will not come to an end if we just blame each other,” said Thein Sein. “We have to solve it by political means. For that, it is needed that we must start with ceasefire agreements.”

Thein Sein went on to explain that there were three steps in his government's peace process—State level talks and stopping hostilities, repositioning troops and opening liaison offices in respective regions, and then setting up a timetable for Union level talks.

But not all observers are convinced by the Thein Sein's remarks. Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on Burma, David Mathieson, last month told the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, “No one knows what's happening within the [Burmese] military. The only thing we can discern is that they are as abusive as ever.”

The president, however, vowed that it is government policy to ensure equality between the diverse minorities of Burma, and that the country must be proud to have more than 100 ethnic groups.

He said that it is necessary to cooperate with ethnic leaders, political parties, representatives of civil society and civilians in order to allow ethnic minorities to live in dignity. He emphasized that ethnic cooperation is very important and it is unnecessary for minority groups to separate from the Union of Burma.

Since late 2011, several peace deals with major ethnic rebels such as Karen, Shan, Mon and Chin militias have been reached under the negotiation of his Union level peace delegation. However, fighting still rages in Kachin State where an estimated 40,000 refugees, many women and children, currently live in make-shift camps near the Chinese border.

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Laipacang Wrote:
Can we call it the ever first humble speech from a Burman leader? Maybe he understands that Burmese peoples can never make a Union without ethnic peoples.

Ko Myo Lay Wrote:
snakelike president. two tongues

tapu Wrote:
Somebody mentioned "second class". Where did you read it? Can you tell me from what you got that? I am curious about the "second class". Thanks

sidney Wrote:
hold on a second..
That's what a democracy is about, the army don't necessarily have to agree with the government, neither the parliament.
or is it?

N.Islam Wrote:
Dear President,
It is heartening that you claim to have been working with Panglong spirit. Please don't forget that diversity is strength not weakness. Again there should be no discrimination, on grounds of ethnicity and religion, to rebuild an ethnically diverse but strong Union. Here the people of South Asian appearance like 'Rohingya' in contrast to South-east Asian should not be treated unfairly on the basis of prejudice. Please treat them justly with benign intentions.

KI Wrote:
how can anyone believe thein shein´s lies?

are people really that naive?

KML Wrote:
Dear President U Thein Sein,

Please do not forget those people, who have never took a gun but grossly violated by your predecessors, to come along with this olive branch meaningfully.

Thit Wrote:
What a humble and caring speech by President Thein Sein!?

In the recent past history of Myanmar, did any one leader (a) mention any modern gadget such as a "lap top"? (This shows forward-looking-ness.) (b) mention the feelings or sufferings of teen generation? (c) felt responsibility for the lost dreams of the people especially minority ethnic groups?

Congratulations, President Thein Sein for your such caring and inclusive speech. You have the responsibility to remain in touch with people's hearts.

Chindits Wrote:
I am glad he is viewing and willing to work. How about security council which elected him?

JustinBomber Wrote:
This is truly remarkable speech by President Thein Sein so far. He addresses the importance of ethnic minorities in building Union Spirit. Apparently admitting how serious they are taking this agenda. We should leave the rest to the minority leaders and warlords what they think about the best for their people. At this point I'm really curious about what the minority leaders are prepared for change and what's their goal. This time I expect the media spotlights on minority leaders, Militias and all Rebel Leaders in regards to what they see with the country future for the good of all sides.

tapu Wrote:
Dear President, Please mean what you preach. I will be watching you. What about Professor, Kyaw Yae Tun threatening the staffs and the students not to be a part of politics. Whose influence is that?

Ayokso Wrote:
" We conduct peace deals based on the spirit of Panglong agreement ". This statement, by the President himself, is great news indeed! A "federal union" is a smart and logical political solution; and will prove to be a win/win proposition for all involved.

Soe Reh Wrote:
President Thein Sein's mentioned the "Panglong Spirit" in this article, which is a very good one but failed to talk about the present national constitution amendment in accordance to the "Panglong Spirit".

Does the president really mean to grant ethnic equality and self-determination with "Panglong Spirit"? Doubts still exist…! Unless the president elaborates more on how “Panglong Spirit” need to be apart of the national constitutional reforms.

Looking forward to see the preseident's action match the "Panglong Spirit".

Soe Reh

Wilson Wrote:
02/03/2012 is cheap. Mr. President, it has been a year since you took the office. If you are really keen to get peace that enough time.

kkloveburma Wrote:
Times will tell exactly what's like near future. Skeptics will be abolished if the president is right. The president will be abolished if the skeptics are right.

Old Guard Wrote:
Statement of a president to the parliament is official. It should not be done, or taken lightly. But it is for us to see if his noble wishes will come true. It will come only if the people involved in this process will work together honestly to achieve the noble common goal. We should show the world that we are sensible people working for a historic change in peaceful way "the Myanmar Spring". Let's forgive each other and forget the ills of the past. Look forward to peace, stability, prosperity and dignity.
If we could do this as the president stated, people of Myanmar deserve even a Nobel Peace Prize.
It is long overdue to restore Peace & Dignity of our mother land. If we don't get this message right this time, we are nothing less than "Damned Bastards".

MawShe Wrote:
To sustain peace is easy if Burmese side is honest and willing to. To do that, you just need to amend the 2008 constitution to restore "a genuine federal union. The Pang Long agreement accepted the “full autonomy in internal administration for the frontier areas”. Why Burmese government broke this agreement and does not want to install back the federal union. Kachin made many ceasefires but failed to bring any political solution. We don't need ceasefire. Fighting will automatically stopped when Min Aung Hlaing withdraw his troops. We don't need ceasefire BUT political solution, which is to change 2008 constitution into a genuine federal union one.

bungshi Wrote:
As a Kachin youth, it is a very difficult to believe Thein sein's speech, just want to see action rather than words. everyday in Kachin state fighting is going on. if Thein Sein really want to make peace with Kachin withdraw Burmese troops from KIO territory. having laptops without ethnic right is nothing. self determination for ethnic people is first, laptops are third and forth.

Ba Thann Win Wrote:
Thein Sein words seems to be hallow when he himself did not accept the Union of the country by not recognizing the Panglong Accord. Why are the non Myanmar are considered as second class? Is it because the ethnic Myanmar want to be colonizers of the other ethnic nationalities?

Ohn Wrote:
You are right Thein Sein. You have ready audience who will believe anything you say.

Do you still need the picture of the man with eyes gouged out ( oh! it was your Sit-tut who did it )? He might not be able to use the iPAD that you are so desperate to give. Wait for iPAD3.

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