Burma’s President Thein Sein told reporters on Wednesday that the government will pursue a four-point plan aimed at resolving the bitter divisions between Muslim and Buddhist communities in Rakhine State. He said the plan will involve changing people’s prejudices, promoting education, creating jobs—and introducing a program of birth control.
“What must we do so that the two communities can coexist peacefully forever?” said the president, speaking to Burmese media at a press conference on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh. “The most basic thing we can do is to change the mindset of many people. We must make people empathize with each other.”
Addressing his second point, Thein Sein said that the education of people in the Rakhine region is poor and must be improved. “Only if we promote their educational standards will their moral standards improve. And only when their moral standards improve will they be able to live together in harmony.”
The Burmese President went on to say that there are limited job opportunities in the region, and more jobs need to be created.
“If a person is poor, they can easily become angry about their situation for no good reason,” Thein Sein said. “That’s why we need to create job opportunities.”
Addressing his fourth point—undoubtedly the most controversial—the Burmese President said that the birth rate in the region is very high, so authorities will introduce a program of birth control in accordance with international standards.
Thein Sein noted that some 110,000 people were displaced due to the recent violence in the Rakhine State. He said the government is spending about US $1 million per month providing food to refugees, and that it now requires about $65 million for rehabilitation.