Burma’s reforms are “irreversible” and the country’s ethnic conflicts, including the Muslim Rohingya issue, will be resolved according to “international norms,” President Thein Sein told the 67th UN General Assembly in an address on Thursday.
|President Thein Sein addresses the UN General Assembly. UN Photo|
Burma, he said, was now “leaving behind a system of authoritarian government,” and working to end ethnic conflicts and community violence in western Burma.
Thein Sein listed a number of reforms his government had undertaken, including the granting of amnesties to prisoners, the convening of credible 2012 by-elections, the abolition of media censorship and the increased participation of the Burmese people in the country’s political process.
He noted the role of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently on a US visit during which she received the Congressional Gold Medal—the country’s top civilian award—and met with US President Barack Obama.
Thein Sein publicly praised Suu Kyi, referring to her as a “Nobel laureate.”
“As a Myanmar citizen, I would like to congratulate her for the honors she has received in this country in recognition of her efforts for democracy,” Thein Sein said.
Later, speaking at the Asia Society in New York, he said Suu Kyi had played a “crucial role in the reform process.”
“She's been a good colleague,” Thein Sein said, according to the interpretation of his comments, made in the Burmese language. “I believe she will continue to work with us to complete all the things we need to achieve in the country.”
Later, responding to a question, Thein Sein said, "If I have my way, I will only serve one term,” but he left the door open to seek a second term of office in the country’s 2015 election.
“But of course the future of the position depends on the needs of country and the wishes of the people,” he said, according to wire reports.
He told the UN that his government is trying to reconcile conflicts with the country’s many ethnic groups.
“We have so far achieved cease-fire agreements with 10 armed groups, while further strengthening confidence-building measures we will continue the peace talks,” Sein told his UN audience. “National-level peace negotiations will then continue toward a final peace agreement that would completely end the armed hostilities.”
Acknowledging the recent violence in western Rakhine State between Rakhine Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims that has claimed nearly a hundred lives, he said all people in Burma have a right to live in peace and security, and an investigation commission would submit their findings and recommendations to him.
Political pundits say the next election in 2015 offers the possibility of a sweeping victory to Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, which swept by-elections in April and raises the question of whether the country’s powerful military would accept the outcome.
Three years away from the next elections, few expect the military or Thein Sein's military-dominated ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) to allow any dilution of the military's powers.
Thein Sein’s recognition of Aung San Suu Kyi’s work is believed to be the first time a Burmese leader had mentioned the democracy leader at a world body.