Burmese President Invites Return of Citizens Abroad

Posted August 17th, 2011 at 7:05 am (UTC-5)
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Burmese President Thein Sein is urging citizens who have fled abroad to come back to Burma and help rebuild the economy, saying his government is ready to forgive past differences.

Khin Shwe, a prominent businessman and member of parliament, told VOA's Burmese service that Thein Sein made the appeal during a meeting with businessmen and private organizations earlier Wednesday.

Khin Shwe said the president also told the group his government wants to work with its internal opponents for the best interests of the country. A senior official has held two meetings with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but the government has given no sign it is ready to release an estimated 2,100 political prisoners.

Khin Shwe said Thein Sein used the meeting to describe the efforts his government has made since coming to office at the end of March.

He said the president recounted steps to rebuild the economy, the raising of pensions and salaries, and efforts to conduct peace talks with ethnic rebels in the country's north. Government forces and Kachin rebels have been fighting since early June, but efforts at peace talks have failed amid mutual distrust.

Among the economic steps listed by the president was the lifting of import tariffs on certain items. The official New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported this week that tariffs are being lifted on rice, beans, corn, sesame, rubber, sea products and some animal products.

Thein Sein's government was elected by the new parliament chosen in November in the country's first elections in 20 years. Opposition parties complained the elections were unfair, and a party closely allied with the former military rulers won the vast majority of seats.