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Myanmar’s democratic transition needs continued support, patience, President tells UN

President Thein Sein of Myanmar Addresses the General Assembly .
UN Photo/Jennifer S. Altman
President Thein Sein of Myanmar Addresses the General Assembly .

Myanmar’s democratic transition needs continued support, patience, President tells UN

While Myanmar is making progress in its democratic transition, it faces a number of formidable challenges that will require both the continued support and patience of its people, the United Nations and the wider international community, the country’s President Thein Sein told the UN General Assembly today.

“Myanmar is now ushering in a new era,” President Sein said in his address to the Assembly’s General Debate, while noting that the democratic path has not been an easy one. “In the ongoing reform process, we are facing challenges as well as opportunities.”

The people of Myanmar have been able to bring about “amazing” changes in a short period of time, he said. “Leaving behind a system of authoritarian government wherein the administrative, legislative and judicial powers were centralized, we have now been able to put in place a democratic government and a strong, visible parliament.”

Other developments include the granting of amnesties to prisoners, the successful holding of by-elections this year, and the abolition of media censorship, the President said. In addition, opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – who spent nearly two decades under house arrest, before her release in November 2010 – is now participating in the parliament.

Stating that the cessation of all armed conflicts is a prerequisite for the building of genuine democracy, President Sein reported that ceasefire agreements have been reached with 10 armed groups in the country. Talks will continue with the aim of reaching a final peace agreement that would completely end the armed hostilities.

“While the Government is resolutely pursuing political, social and economic reforms, some unfortunate and unexpected issues have come up in our way,” the President stated, citing the recent communal violence in the western state of Rakhine as an example.

Recent tensions between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine left at least a dozen civilians dead and hundreds of homes destroyed, as well as at least 64,000 people displaced.

President Sein established a 27-member commission to investigate the violence, comprising representatives from the Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Hindu faiths.

“The issue at hand cannot be solved overnight,” he noted. “It will be resolved by taking short-term and long-term measures through a multi-faceted approach taking into account political, economic and social aspects.”

He said Myanmar’s democratic transformation process would be a “complex and delicate” one that requires patience. “To complete this process, we certainly need the understanding and support from the United Nations and its Member States, the international community as a whole and, last but not least, the people of Myanmar.”

The President of Myanmar is one of scores of world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.