Posts Tagged ‘Thein Sein’
Their third meeting aimed at assessing reforms comes amid tensions in Rakhine state.
The meeting came as the government gave rare approval to a visit by a 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) team to the troubled Burmese state of Rakhine amid concerns of human rights abuses on the ethnic minority Muslim Rohingya.
Government and opposition officials confirmed the meeting between the two leaders, the first since Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as member of parliament in May and the third since August last year when maiden talks between the two were held.
Like the previous two meetings, no details were released of the latest talks, held at the country’s capital Naypyidaw and attended also by key Cabinet ministers, including Soe Thane, who leads a government panel conducting peace talks with ethnic groups.
The Thein Sein-Aung San Suu Kyi meeting was aimed at finding a broad consensus on political and other reforms and bringing an end to long running ethnic conflicts in the country, according to various officials.
Suu Kyi was recently appointed to lead a parliamentary committee on the rule of law and in her inaugural address to the legislature last month sought laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities.
President Thein Sein’s administration, which came to power in March last year after decades of brutal military rule, has struck ceasefire agreements with 10 ethnic armed groups but fighting continues with other groups such as those in Kachin state in the north which has displaced tens of thousands of people.
Recent clashes between Buddhist ethnic Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state in the west of the country have also left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless.
The Burmese government has come under international pressure over the June clashes after the United Nations voiced concerns of a crackdown on Rohingya and Human Rights Watch issued a report alleging abuses by security forces in the region.
Aung San Suu Kyi had said that “the most important lesson” from the Rakhine conflict is the country’s “need for rule of law,” which she added is also key to resolving the numerous armed ethnic conflicts in the country.
In what is seen as a conciliatory move, Thein Sein has agreed to allow the OIC to deliver “urgent aid” to displaced Rohingyas, the global Muslim group said in a statement on its website at the weekend.
The approval came after he met Friday with an OIC delegation led by Jusuf Kalla, a former Indonesian Vice-President, the statement said.
The delegation briefed the president “on the concern of the Muslim world about the ongoing regrettable developments in the humanitarian situation in [Rakhine state] and on the readiness of the OIC to deliver urgent assistance to the entire [Rakhine state], without discrimination,” according to the statement.
Saudi, Turkish aid In a separate report, Saudi Arabia said its leader, King Abdullah, has ordered U.S. $50 million in aid to be sent to the Ronhingya in Rakhine. Last week Turkey announced similar financial assistance. A report on the Saudi state news agency said the Rohingya community had been “exposed to many violations of human rights including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement,” according to Reuters.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu flew to Sittwe, Rakhine’s capital, last week to assess the humanitarian needs following the June violence and is expected to brief an OIC summit in Mecca on Tuesday on the latest situation, reports say.
An activist speaks during a ceremony to mark the 24th anniversary of the Aug. 8, 1988, demonstrations, which triggered one of the country’s bloodiest uprisings, in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2012. Crowds have turned out in cities across Myanmar to publicly commemorate the anniversary of pro-democracy protests, which for the first time won approval; and partial funding; from the government. Khin Maung Win / AP Photo
By YADANA HTUN, Associated Press
YANGON, Myanmar – Crowds turned out Wednesday in cities across Myanmar to commemorate the 24th anniversary of massive pro-democracy protests, with the government giving its approval – and even financial support – for the first time.
Former political prisoners joined hundreds of others at rallies in Yangon, Mandalay and elsewhere to mark the Aug. 8, 1988, start of weeks of protests across the country that were bloodily suppressed by the military.
Government approval for Wednesday’s rallies would be unthinkable a few years ago. While the country was under military rule, citizens did not dare to mark the anniversary publicly for fear of arrest.
President Thein Sein, who has introduced a wave of globally praised reforms since taking office last year, sent two Cabinet ministers to inform organizers on Tuesday that the government was approving their request to hold the rallies. The ministers also handed over 1 million kyat ($1,200) in cash to help fund the events, said Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of the 1988 uprising who spent many years in prison.
“It’s as if the government is also participating in this commemoration,” Ko Ko Gyi said in a telephone interview from Mandalay, where the main rally was being held. “I feel like this is a step toward reform.”
Presidential spokesman Nay Zin Latt said the government recognized the anniversary as a “historic event” and the president wanted to show his sincerity about achieving national reconciliation.
“The president always talks about national reconciliation,” the spokesman said. “This action can help build better mutual understanding.”
After a demonstration by students on Aug. 8, 1988, the uprising spread throughout the country, drawing an estimated million people. Several thousand were killed before the protests were crushed the following month. The military repealed the constitution and imposed martial law.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a leader of the democracy movement during the protests. Her political party swept elections held in 1990, but the military refused to let it take power.
“The ’88 uprising was the symbol of the people’s cooperation,” Ko Ko Gyi said. “It makes us remember our friends who are still in prison and those who live abroad. It also reminds me of our hard times.”
Human rights groups say authorities are still holding an unknown number of political prisoners, although the most famous have been released over the past two years, including Suu Kyi.
Last month, authorities temporarily detained more than 20 activists ahead of a planned commemoration of the 50th anniversary of a brutal military crackdown on students in July 1962.
Although all were freed after about a day, their colleagues said the detentions showed that the government remains repressive despite its reforms.
YANGON, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) — Myanmar is committed to accomplishing its obligations for the progress and perpetuation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) while the country is sharing the fortune of ASEAN with other member nations in political, economic and social spheres, Myanmar President U Thein Sein said on Wednesday.
In his message on the occasion of the 45th ASEAN anniversary, Thein Sein stressed the need to endeavor toward the full realization of the Bali Concord-3 “ASEAN Community, in the Global Community of Nations” adopted by ASEAN leaders at the 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia.
Warning that there are also challenges at the time ASEAN is making achievements, Thein Sein emphasized the need for ASEAN people including those of Myanmar to do their utmost in the regional integration efforts, aimed at reducing the development gap among member nations and implementing the master plan on ASEAN connectivity as identified by ASEAN leaders in the Phnom Penh Declaration and Phnom Penh Agenda at the 20th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in July.
Noting that Myanmar is moving towards a modern and developed nation with disciplined democracy, he said the mission that Myanmar is undertaking is dedicated to the interest of the state and the people and it is also in line with the principles of ASEAN.
He urged the Myanmar people to contribute to maintaining ASEAN solidarity and ASEAN’s centrality in addressing regional and international issues, to strive for the emergence of a people- centered community and to exert efforts to play a more pronounced role in ASEAN in accordance with the active, independent and non- aligned foreign policy of Myanmar as well as to strive for the successful chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014.
Myanmar joined ASEAN in July 1997. In 2011, the ASEAN Inter- Parliamentary Assembly granted Myanmar’s parliament a full-fledged membership.
Renewed violence between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya has left three people dead in Myanmar, a government official said on Monday, amid growing international concern about the sectarian unrest.
The fighting in western Rakhine state has killed 80 people from both sides since June, official figures show, although authorities say the situation has been generally calm in recent weeks.
The new casualties, who were not identified, died on Sunday in Kyauktaw about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the state capital Sittwe, said the official, who did not want to be named. Five others were reported wounded.
“The situation is calm and back to normal already,” the official told AFP. “We do not know why it started again.”
The violence initially broke out in June following the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman and the subsequent lynching of 10 Muslims by a crowd of angry Buddhists.
The bloodshed has cast a shadow over widely praised reforms by President Thein Sein, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.
Myanmar’s government has rejected accusations of abuse by security forces in Rakhine, after the United Nations raised fears of a crackdown on Muslims.
The entire state has been under emergency rule since early June with a heavy army and police presence.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Myanmar forces of opening fire on Rohingya, as well as committing rape and standing by as rival mobs attacked each other.
The authorities failed to protect both sides and then “unleashed a campaign of violence and mass roundups against the Rohingya,” the group said in a report released last week.
Decades of discrimination have left the Rohingya stateless, and they are viewed by the United Nations as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.
Speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in neighbouring Bangladesh, the Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants by the Myanmar government and many Burmese, and many have attempted to flee overseas in rickety boats.
Its industry minister says the country’s average income per person could eclipse those of its two neighbors soon.
Burma hopes to overtake neighbors Laos and Cambodia in terms of average income per person within two to three years, as the country embraces political and economic reforms, Burmese Industry Minister Soe Thein said Monday.
“I hope we will have higher average income per person than Laos and Cambodia by 2014-15. It is possible,” he said in an interview with RFA’s Burmese service.
Soe Thein was answering a question on his expectations for the Burmese economy in the next five years.
Burma is languishing with a gross national income per capita of U.S. $379.60, based on U.N. figures in 2009, the lowest among its fellow member states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Laos has a per capita income of U.S. $1,130 while Cambodia has U.S. $830, based on 2011 figures by the World Bank.
The gross national income per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final income in a year, divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country’s citizens.
A nominally civilian government that took over power in Burma in March last year after decades of harsh military rule and financial mismanagement is implementing democratic and economic reforms that have led the international community to ease sanctions on the country.
As part of economic reforms, President Thein Sein’s government, with the help of the International Monetary Fund, launched a managed float of its kyat currency in April to help normalize and unify its multiple exchange rates.
Foreign investment law The country’s parliament is also discussing a foreign investment law, which reports say will spell out new tax exemptions, land-use terms, legal structures, and incentives for foreign companies.
“Our existing law [on trade] are already good. But to be able to compete with [neighboring] ASEAN [countries] and to protect the people, to protect our environment, we are drafting the new law,” Soe Thein said.
“Actually it was already discussed at the parliament in the first session, and now this is going to be discussed again,” he said.
When asked when the much awaited law will be approved, he said, “It doesn’t matter, it will be done at some point.”
“Even if this is not done yet, the existing foreign direct investment law is not bad at all. We can apply it for now. When the new law is approved, we can enjoy better benefits.”
Soe Thein said Burmese authorities will treat foreign companies on an equal basis based on market forces even though Burma has been close to China for decades especially under military rule.
“This is a market economy. Local partners will choose. If we consider efficiency, let’s say if you buy something, you choose a good product. In business, you have to choose the best partner,” he said. Asked whether foreign investments are flowing into Burma rapidly in line with reforms, he said there could be a significant rise early next year.
“We are going to have it. For now, we are still in the process of discussing. I myself have been discussing many times already. It will be a lot more progress by the beginning of next year, I think. Meanwhile, there is some increase.”
On potential employment benefits, the minister said some 110,000 jobs had been created over the last year with a potential for one million jobs when the government enters into peace with ethnic armed rebel groups.
“When the peace process is done, we will have more job opportunities in the [ethnic] regions [through the efforts of] international donors. Creating jobs is considered the number one criteria. We choose factories that can provide more jobs. Eventually we will have up to a million [jobs].”
The government has struck ceasefire agreements with several ethnic armed groups but their leaders said that the ceasefire is just the first step of a process that must include political solutions.
Clashes have been reported regularly in Shan state, Karenni state, Karen state and most notably in Kachin state, where rebels have not reached a truce despite several rounds of negotiations.
YANGON, July 14 (Xinhua) — Myanmar President U Thein Sein, who returned to Nay Pyi Taw Saturday from Friday’s U.S-ASEAN Business Forum in Cambodia’s Siem Reap, underscored that the country has reached a historical turning point with its development endeavors and democratic reforms being undertaken in Myanmar.
“Today, after nearly half a century, Myanmar has embarked on democratic path in building a new nation through peaceful transition. Myanmar is at a crucial juncture, where she has evolved from the military administration putting an end to armed conflict to achieve sustainable peace and moving toward a new democratic era while endeavoring for the development of the country,” Thein Sein said in a statement at the forum before his return.
“Myanmar is located at a strategic location in the Southeast Asia Region with abundant untapped natural resources. However, our country has lagged behind in development compared to other countries in the world,” he said, adding that the government is still encountering many difficulties and obstacles as well as numerous challenges in building a new democratic society.
With suspicion and uncertainties removed, Myanmar has started to enjoy the support of many nations with the passage of time because of its transparency and genuine goodwill efforts, he said, adding many nations understand the true situation and actual difficulties and challenges that the government is encountering.
However, he said there are still others who wish to observe Myanmar’s situation and maintain pressure on it.
To bring true change to the country, the government is striving to fulfill the wishes of the people by implementing three reform measures, he noted.
The first measure is to walk out from a centralized system that the country had practiced for half a century and eventually build a matured democratic state, in which the biggest challenge for the people and the country will be democratic practice that has been vanished from the country for many years.
He stressed the need to carry out reform measures in Executive, Legislative and Judiciary bodies to build a strong democratic foundation, while reviewing or revoking existing laws that no longer attend to the new system and this new era and reforming the bureaucratic system and the mindset of the government officials.
He said Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), has been invited to hold discussions openly setting aside the differences and working together based on common grounds.
“Today, she is a parliamentarian and she is at the Hluttaw ( parliament)” he stressed, adding that the government was also able to engage with leaders of ethnic nationalities, political parties, entrepreneurs, civil society and foreign and domestic intelligence and those from all walks of life.
Aimed at achieving national reconsolidation, the government has granted amnesty to many prisoners and relaxed regulations on media and telecommunications to enable people to have better access and enjoy the facilities openly, he recalled.
The government has also invited expatriates to return to the homeland.
Easing the printing and censorship procedures on a step-by-step basis, the government has already committed itself to enact a Media Law for media freedom and transparency in the near future, he assured.
He also cited the granting of formation of political parties, civil societies, the enactment of laws that protect the fundamental rights of the citizens such as the formation of labor union and the freedom of assembly and speech.
The second reform measure that the president said is undertaking is to achieve a long lasting peace in the country.
He said after over six decades’ conflicts in the country since its independence, last year the government launched a new mode of operation and coordination through a new dialogue, enabling it to sign ceasefire agreements with 10 ethnic armed groups and engage with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) from the Kachin State as well.
The third reform measure is to transform the centralized economy into a market-oriented economy.
As part of micro-economy exertion, the government is implementing rural areas development and poverty alleviation.
With the enactment of Micro-finance Act, the government has sought necessary assistance from domestic and foreign experts for sustainable micro-economic policy and adopted the managed float exchange rate system in Myanmar.
While implementing the three reforms measures in parallel, the government also faces numerous challenges like the recent situation in Rakhine State which the government was able to calm down and bring to normalcy.
However, U Thein Sein expressed regret that Myanmar has not received any assistance from international monetary institutions and organizations such as World Bank, IMF, ADB and UNDP in its democratic nation building endeavors due to sanctions imposed on Myanmar.
He blamed that sanctions are still restricting Myanmar from seeking technical know-how and setting up economic engagement with other countries.
He invites foreign investors to invest in Myanmar, saying that the Myanmar Investment Commission has laid down the four principles with regard to foreign investment, namely to protect the interest of Myanmar citizen, to protect the dignity of the State, to protect national sovereignty, and to allow environmental friendly investment.
He disclosed that Myanmar is preparing to enact Myanmar Foreign Investment Law of international standard, seeking advice from international experts to attract more investments that will serve both the interest of the country and the investors.
On the sideline of the forum, U Thein Sein met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among other regional leaders who had announced on Thursday in Phnom Penh the easing of U.S. sanctions against Myanmar and allowing U.S. investors to do businesses in the country in light of Myanmar’s progress made in its democratization process.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, …
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Myanmar President Thein Sein on Friday for landmark talks days after Washington eased its sanctions on the once-pariah state.
The pair began talks in the Cambodian tourist town Siem Reap on the sidelines of a business conference, after the US on Wednesday gave the green light to firms to invest in Myanmar, including in oil and gas, in its greatest loosening of tough sanctions so far.
They met amid concerns among rights groups the US is moving too fast in its eagerness to cash in on Myanmar’s vast business potential.
Washington on Wednesday gave the green light for firms to invest in the southeast Asian country, including in oil and gas, in its greatest loosening of sanctions to reward reforms after nearly half a century of military rule.
The decision will please US firms eager not to miss out on what some economists expect to be a goldrush in the resource-rich nation.
Asian firms have been doing business in Myanmar for years, while the European Union suspended most of its sanctions against the country in April.
Myanmar on Friday said Thein Sein and Clinton were expected to discuss changes that have swept Myanmar since a quasi-civilian government replaced the military junta last year.
“The meeting shows the support of the US government to Myanmar’s reform process,” Zaw Htay, director of the president’s office, told AFP.
Clinton acknowledged Friday in a speech to a women’s forum in the Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap that in Myanmar “as the economy opens up, there will be new challenges”.
“It will be tempting, given the country’s extremely low wages, to try to attract investment by undercutting competitors like Bangladesh and Cambodia.”
But she argued long-term sustainable development would be strengthened if the nation’s leaders “focus on protecting workers, attracting quality jobs, and continuing to reform the political system”.
And she insisted Washington was setting up “protections to ensure that increased American investment advances rather than undermines the reform process” as US firms will have to report on transparency and labour rights.
Myanmar — along with regional neighbours — has called for all sanctions to be lifted as the country embarks on its “second wave” of economic reforms.
Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed the sanctions decision, but called for greater transparency at state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which US firms will be able to do business with under the new rules.
Her comments were echoed by influential US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who said operations at the organisation “remain non-transparent and the billions of dollars in foreign investment that it receives remain unaccountable to the people and parliament of Burma”.
Human Rights Watch went further, saying Washington had “caved to industry pressure” because it did not insist on reforms in governance and human rights.
Thein Sein’s comments to the UN Thursday that refugee camps or deportation was the “solution” for stateless Muslim Rohingya, following communal violence last month in western Myanmar, are also likely to alarm Western nations.
Left impoverished by decades of economic mismanagement and isolation under army rule, the country is seen as the next big frontier in Asia for firms wanting to take advantage of its resources, cheap labour force, high growth potential and strategic position between China and India.
Thein Sein told the Singapore Straits Times his country would sign up to an Oslo-based initiative to enhance transparency of payments in the oil and minerals sector.
He told the daily that “foreign investment had to benefit the people of this country to help raise their incomes.”
Thein Sein will be introduced by Clinton at a US-ASEAN business forum Friday in Siem Reap which will be the largest ever gathering of American corporate leaders in Asia.
Executives from Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, DHL and Goldman Sachs are among dozens of US companies travelling to the conference.
A high-level delegation of US business leaders will be visiting Yangon and the capital Naypyidaw in the coming days.
NAY PYI TAW, April 30 (Xinhua) — Myanmar president U Thein Sein held talks with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw on Monday, a day after his arrival in Yangon.
Ban also met with speakers of the two houses of the parliament Thura U Shwe Mann and U Khin Aung Myint respectively.
No details are immediately available about the meetings.
Ban will address the parliament later Monday, becoming the first international dignitary to make speech in Myanmar’s legislature
Ban is also scheduled to travel back to Yangon on Tuesday and meet Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
At the invitation of U Thein Sein, Ban arrived in Yangon on Sunday for a three-day official visit to Myanmar in the wake of significant changes taking place in the country.
It is Ban’s third trip to Myanmar with the first being in 2008 after cyclone Nargis struck the country and the second in 2009.
YANGON, April 11 (Xinhua) — Myanmar president U Thein Sein met with by-election-winning leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw Wednesday, two days ahead of Myanmar Water Festival, according to official sources.
It is expected that the pair would discuss democratization and peace process with ethnic armed groups as well as parliamentary affairs.
The talks between U Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, which represented the second after the first on Aug. 19, 2011, came 10 days after the April 1 by-elections, in which the NLD swept a total of 43 parliamentary seats out of 45, of which all 37 seats with the House of Representatives, four with the House of Nationalities and all two with the Region or State parliaments.
Aung San Suu Kyi herself, who was elected as member of House of Representatives for the first time in the by-elections, contested by 17 political parties, is prepared to attend, along with her party’s other parliamentary representatives-elect, the adjourned third session of the parliament to be resumed on April 23 as officially informed.
During their first meeting in August 2011 soon after Aung San Suu Kyi’s release on Nov. 13, 2010, Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi had discussions on prospect on cooperation for the common interest of the nation and the people, agreeing to put aside the disagreements and pursue four points — to join hand in hand to carry out tasks for the country’s stability and peace and development to fulfill the wish of the people; to cooperate constructively for the development of the country’s economic and social affair and for the development of democracy system; to avoid disputed views and carry out cooperative tasks on reciprocal basis; and to continue dialogue.
JAKARTA, March 20 (Xinhua) — Myanmar invited the ASEAN Secretariat and member states to observe the April 1 bi-elections, a press statement from the organization said here on Tuesday.
Myanmar planned to invite a five-member Observer Delegate, including two Parliamentarians and three media staff from each ASEAN member state.
In its invitation letter to the ASEAN Secretariat, Myanmar requested the teams to arrive in Yangon on March 28, to attend a briefing the following day.
The April bi-elections in Myanmar have attracted a lot of attention.
Myanmar has urged relevant countries to lift sanctions, and allow the country to pursue its development to improve the living standards of its people.
Last month, in response to the recommendation of ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan, during his visit, Myanmar President Thein Sein said, “We will seriously consider having observers from ASEAN and the ASEASN Secretariat during the April elections.”
The two leaders agreed that such a move would boost transparency, which will add to the international goodwill that Myanmar had attracted so far.