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Myanmar democratic reform process reaches historical turning point: President

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.

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