Burmese President Vows to Continue Democratic Reforms

Posted March 1st, 2012 at 7:15 am (UTC-5)
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Burmese President Thein Sein is urging patience as his government carries out a series of democratic reforms launched nearly a year ago.

In a speech before Parliament Thursday, Mr. Thein Sein said the country faces a long and difficult road to fully transform itself after decades of military rule.

“To achieve successful transition there are many more steps to be taken. We have to continue to work hard, to increase government capacity, to empower the legislative branch, to strengthen the rule of law, to boost private sector businesses, to empower the civil society, to improve basic and social infrastructure and to improve living standard of the people.”

The president said all Burmese have a responsibility to participate in the country's transition to democracy.

“Help us by trusting each other and cooperation. People need to guide our government in the right direction. I want to urge strongly to all stake holders to be involved in making our society stronger. We, the government, are trying to materialize the reform efforts in a short period. We still cannot fulfill everybody's expectation but we will do our best as promised.”

Among the changes that have already taken place, the new government has eased restrictions on the press, released hundreds of political prisoners, and engaged in dialogue with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel Peace Prize winner is running for an open parliamentary seat in a by-election set for April 1.

The new civilian government has also reached cease-fire agreements with several ethnic rebel forces who have been fighting the military for decades. But fighting with ethnic Kachin rebels in northern Burma has continued.

Mr. Thein Sein, a general in the former military junta, says he has instructed the military not to engage in any fighting with the rebels, except in self-defense.

Many international governments have demanded an end to the fighting before they lift economic sanctions against Burma.