covering burma and southeast asia
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Opinion
EDITORIAL

The President's Speech


By THE IRRAWADDY Friday, March 2, 2012


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On Thursday, Burma's President Thein Sein’s delivered a speech before Parliament to mark the anniversary of his government's first year in power. The speech, which was broadcast live on the state-run MRTV television station, was generally well-received by most Burmese. However, some longtime political observers were more skeptical, noting that the president appeared to be papering over a number of issues that could undermine his efforts to deliver further reforms.

In his address to Parliament, Thein Sein stressed the need to strengthen the rule of law, encourage the growth of the private sector, and improve Burma's basic infrastructure. But in addition to pointing to future goals, he also acknowledged mistakes of the past. 
 
“Our people have suffered under various governments and different systems and the people will judge our government based on its actual achievements,” he said, referring to the incarnations of military rule that have dominated Burma for the past half-century.

He also surprised many by mentioning the political aspirations of Burma's ethnic minorities, an issue that has resulted in more than six decades of unresolved conflict.

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

In one of the more unexpected turns in his speech, Thein Sein also mentioned the desire of many young ethnic soldiers to possess weapons better suited to the Information Age.

“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 was very sad to hear this. I have decided to eliminate all these misfortunes during my administration,” he said.
 
Thein Sein also denied the existence of “hardliner” and “reformist” factions in his new government, in response to speculation by political observers that there are severe divisions in his administration.

In fact, many senior officials in the government have told visiting officials and journalists that the government is deeply divided and in many cases unable to move its reform process forward because many cabinet ministers are sitting on the fence.

The president, who is widely regarded as the least corrupt member of the former junta that handed over power last year, is known to be a good listener who pays due attention to all conflicting opinions and voices. However, this may not be enough to deal with those within his administration who continue to resist any movement toward change.

Increasingly, these conservative elements (including many former army generals) are nervous about the resurgence of the democratic opposition and the growing role of civil society groups. This clique is also unhappy about the release of prominent political prisoners and the demands of some ethnic armies for the withdrawal of Burmese troops from border areas as a precondition for reaching a ceasefire agreement.

Any one of these developments—and especially the last—could easily be seized upon by the hardliners as a pretext for reversing reforms in the name of “national security.” Sidelining Thein Sein and his relatively small group of fellow reformers would not be difficult, particularly considering that he is already 67 and has ruled out any political role beyond Burma's next election in 2015. 

This may be why Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly emphasized that Burma is still far from the point of no return.

“Ultimate power still rests with the army, so until we have the army solidly behind the process of democratization we cannot say that we have got to a point where there will be no danger of a U-turn,” she told students of Canada's Carleton University via videolink earlier this week.

“Many people are beginning to say that the democratization process here is irreversible. It's not so,” she added.

If the president really wants to put Burma permanently on the path to reform, he will soon have to take decisive action against those within his own ranks who are opposed to his long-term goals. Words and goodwill will only take him so far.

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Asian Travel Wrote:
10/03/2012
Well, I hate to say this...my gut feeling tells me that that may be a C.D'Ta, I sure hope that I am wrong...Gd Luck!!!!

A.M.O Wrote:
08/03/2012
well. Boy !

Deep in your heart, you guys have a game plan formulated by Sr Gen Than Shwe as - "Gun Law, Gun Politics, Gun Election"

But to the general public, you guys trying hard to spoon-feed sugar coated words, Hm !

Good job, Hm ! U (Gen ) Thein Sein !

chemphuut Wrote:
06/03/2012
Ne Win himself played a game like what Thein Sein did now to persuade ASSK in 1974 but still failed to contain the entire nation to propel into one way traffic of BSPP. Suu Kyi entering into Thein Sein politics will not bridge way to jump boat but strengthen military grip of power as her 40 seats will just be a drop of water in sea of military controlled parliament in Burma.
8888 generation will do something to sweep ASSK, Thein Sein and Than Shwe into ral product by putting the final nail into Burmese revolution.

007TAI Wrote:
04/03/2012
I don't think his speech come from his heart, it was written by his advisers, exile who return to the country. Simply, he just read out loud.

AYOKSO Wrote:
03/03/2012
If I have to make a prediction it is that, after the April by-elections, Mr. Thein Sein with a powerful ally by the name of DASSK, will gradually win over many MP converts. These converts will include members of the military and the USDP. While they will not switch parties outright, many will VOTE with the Opposition party NLD. The Rule of Law, and political settlements the Ethnic Resistance, will then become realities. You have to take one step at a time, be patient and persist. That's why we all say that " change will take time ".

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