Burmese Pleased with President's Speech, but Doubts Linger
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Burmese Pleased with President's Speech, but Doubts Linger

By KYAW ZWA MOE Friday, March 2, 2012

Burmese President Thein Sein waves to members of Parliament after delivering a speech on March 1, 2012. (Photo: Reuters / Soe Zeya Tun)

In his address to Parliament on Thursday, Burmese President Thein Sein impressed many with his choice of  politically meaningful words and colorful phrases reflecting the wishes of the people, but one simple question remains: How seriously can those words be taken?

From teashops around the country to Facebook, many have expressed their views on Thein Sein's speech.

In his greeting, he called the people of Burma the “parents” of the country—something that might not strike many non-Burmese as particularly significant, but which would have a powerful resonance with citizens accustomed to being told that “only the Tatmadaw [armed forces] is the father, and only the Tatmadaw is the mother.” This motto, which has been used by Burma's military rulers for decades, has always been seen as a deep insult to the Burmese people.  

Ko Ko Gyi, a strategic leader of the 88 Generation Student group, listened to the speech carefully and told The Irrawaddy: “The words the President used, from ‘parents’ to ‘all political players’ to 'political inclusiveness,’ are welcome. His words are very good and beautiful, as if he were a poet.”

The former student leader who was freed in January went on to say: “Generally speaking, his whole speech covered all the essential issues, from the political process and ethnic issue to even daily matters on the ground. That showed that he is aware of the day-to-day life of the people.” 

In his speech, Thein Sein vowed that his nominally civilian government would continue the political reforms it initiated last year and strive to establish a lasting peace with ethnic armed groups. But he also touched on more mundane subjects, such as the availability of mobile phone SIM cards and the Internet.

Noting that some young soldiers serving in ethnic armies had expressed a desire to replace their guns with laptops, Thein Sein said he was saddened by this and firmly stated: “I have decided to eliminate all these misfortunes during my 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.”

This remark understandably attracted a great deal of attention from the tiny minority of Burmese with access to the Internet, as well as Burmese living overseas. One young Facebook user simply said, “I love U, President,” while another was more sarcastic: “Mr President, I want a 17-inch Apple laptop.”

In what was surely an unintentional parody of the president's words, the Friday morning edition of The New Light of Myanmar wrote at the top of the front page: “All must try to see race youths who brandished guns using laptop.” 

“The gun represents war and conflict. But laptops represent modernity and development. I think that is a beautiful, meaningful metaphor,” said respected journalist Maung Wuntha, who edits the People’s Era journal in Rangoon.

The writer and editor—a prominent dissident who was detained several times after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising until 2001—listened to the president’s speech carefully and cautiously. He found the speech very comprehensive.

“I am quite satisfied with the way the president used ‘parents’ to refer to the people,” he said.

Maung Wuntha said he was also pleased that the president highlighted the important role of civil society. He added that Thein Sein's open denial of speculation about hardliners and reformists within the government was also good because in the past, Burmese leaders didn’t respond to such speculation.  

Critics believe that there are high-ranking officials in the government who have been resisting the president’s reforms since last year.

One question might reinforce their belief. The president said he came out to make his speech to mark the first anniversary of his government. However, he didn't come into power until the end of last March. So why the rush to address the nation?

“The timing of the speech suggests there was some urgency,” said Ko Ko Gyi. “There seems to be some concern that pushed him to speak a bit earlier than expected.”

Thura Shwe Mann, the speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, has been quite popular recently since he made a number of proposals, including increasing the salaries of civil servants.

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Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Ohn Wrote:"How many years in the jail or jungle is required to be "Burmese"? All the loud mouths and publishers and commentators my be ethnically Burmese, but their view is their view.COMMENT: TRUE.These Bamars are feeling so holier-than-thou in wanting to disintegrate Burma. They are 'nyunkont'. y simply do not understand the timebomb Panglong foisted on Burma by evil Attlee.

No one ask the 70% Burmese populace what they want or what they think.COMMENT:BECASUE majority want unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

A million years in jail does not make anyone a true representative of the majority.COMMENT:SPOT ON!

stan Wrote:
People do not care what you say..People only care what you do...
By the way, Shwe Mann is so dumb cos' he proposed to increase the salary. In the past they increased for many times but it didn't resolve any issue. So he is doing the same thing over and over again.

A.M.O Wrote:
well! Boy !

There are two issues, namely:
1. Better use sugar coated words to buy the time to please the public (NB: Fearful of 'Arab Spring' coming over to them)

2. Even if they got the real hearts to reform,they don't know how to change their mindsets

So, they will end up going back to the square one (ie.50+ years of military rule)

Min Naing Wrote:
Somebody has composed the speech with nice words. It could also be interpreted as campaigning for April by-election. Many Burmese has softened their stands on the government/USDP which is exactly what the government is looking for. Words without actions are nothing more than a coordinated political ploy.

lai Wrote:
Laptop! hhh...like children. Anyway, Good...but they are trying to take Chinland (Chin State) called Muitawng (Head of Snake) as Sagaing Division for there are lots of mineral resources and Southern Chin State called Paletwah Town as Rakhaine State as well. Too pain...bad and cruelty government. Chin people has nothing only that Muitawng...

Ehipassika Wrote:
Mr. President, please keep your promises and go ahead ending the democracy goal for the sake of people's better lives without irreversibility!

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
We are very pleased. Our patron His majesty HM King Shwebomin II must be very pleased too. Mentoring does work.
Back in 1995, at a Burmese gathering in west London,Ealing town Hall, His Majesty affirmed to His Excellency the then Burmese ambassador that HM would keep his promise to unite Burma.
HM has worked most intelligently and tirelessly, whilst providing financial support to Burmese refugees and YMCA in Yangon, to bring about the changes.

Three cheers to His Majesty Shwebomin II.
Patron of

NB: No need to doubt sincerity of Myanmar government at all. All directives from HM are dutifully carried out by 'Wungyis', meaning minister. The word Wungyi in Burmese means bearer of the burden of the King. OK?
Now start learnign true Burmese history and origin of the Burmese language.

Ohn Wrote:
How many years in the jail or jungle is required to be "Burmese"? All the loud mouths and publishers and commentators my be ethnically Burmese, but their view is their view.

No one ask the 70% Burmese populace what they want or what they think. A million years in jail does not make anyone a true representative of the majority.

Is it really true that what the exalted internet-ed, iPAD-ed ex-jail people know somehow exactly what the people in Malon/ Ye Oo are thinking now?

Reginald (Reggie) Vardon Wrote:
Dear U Kyaw Zwa Moe,
In your true belief, is President Thein Sein in control of the Tatmadaw or is the Tatmadaw in control of President Thein Sein???
We in the US would like to know.
Thank you,

Patriot Wrote:
True, the speech was well given. However, it has to be followed with right actions. After an impressive speech, the Govt has to deliver actions and results as promised in the speech. Public trust is to be obtained from actions that go in accordance with the words spoken.

It is believed that all Myanmar leaders today (TS, TSM, MAH and ASSK)have reached certain maturity to jointly orchestrate and bring the country out from the shambles - lifting all its people - including ethnic minorities - out from harm's way.

Naing Sann Yin Wrote:
For decades, Myanmar people were oppressed and deprived of love and attention by their own rulers. In fact, all Myanmar citizens are in hunger for love and attention by the ruling body. When one party shows love and affection, the same karmic affect will be reciprocated. TRUE BUDDHISTS know too well that NEGLIGENCE is the main ingredient leading towards further DELUSION and DARKNESS. It is high time for Myanmar leaders to lighten up (enlighten) the country and all its people.

Mg Min Nway Wrote:
Yes--Words are not enough.
The recent small issue like 3000 Kyats SM cards will test his ability.
Moreover,he should step up to intenational
level by denouncing SYRIA ,RUSSIA and CHINA
for crimes against humanity.
Burma had no say in international affairs since
1962 under Ne Win eventhough Burma decleared NON ALLIANCE policy.
This action will improve his standard and power.

Kyaw Kayw Wrote:
The time has come to look forward and develop our Mother Land After over 40 years of Military rule lets move on

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