The Myanmar Times
Wednesday, 17 December 2014

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The Myanmar Times

President’s first address wins plaudits

New President U Thein Sein’s speech outlining his government’s plan of action was well-received domestically, with one opposition political party describing it as “very significant”.

However, the international response was more lukewarm, with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon calling on the military to prove that the new civilian government was “genuine” in its ambitions.

“The Myanmar authorities now have an opportunity and, indeed, an obligation to their people, to demonstrate that this change is one of substance and that it is the start of a genuine move away from almost 50 years of direct military rule,” Ban was quoted as saying by his spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Ban made a new call for “inclusive dialogue” on broad political and economic reforms and said the government must respond to “the longstanding aspirations of the Myanmar people for national reconciliation, democratisation and respect for human rights”.

The United States was more critical, with a State Department spokesperson on March 30 saying his country remained deeply concerned by the “oppressive political environment” even after the ostensible end to military rule.

At home, a co-founder of the National Democratic Force – formed by former National League for Democracy (NLD) members to contest the 2010 election, winning 16 seats – described the speech as “very significant”.

“We can see that [U Thein Sein] has the desire to reform but we have to wait and see whether it really happens,” U Khin Maung Swe told news agency AFP.

Large sections of U Thein Sein’s March 30 address were devoted to encouraging “individuals and unlawful organisations inside and outside the nation that do not accept the state’s seven-step Road Map and the constitution” to work within the political framework established by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

A spokesperson for the NLD – disbanded after not registering for last year’s election – said it “acknowledged” the political changes that had taken place.

“As the NLD mainly works for national reconciliation we expect to start a dialogue with the new government,” spokesman Nyan Win told AFP.

U Ko Gyi, a well-known businessman and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) representative for Aungmyaythazan in Mandalay Region, said he believed the country would experience positive growth if the new government “quickly and truly” followed through with its policy agenda.

He said representatives from opposition parties had received preferential treatment when filing questions and motions.

“I have been attending the hluttaw sessions from day one and I’ve found that the questions and proposals instigated by the minor parties were given priority over the USDP,” the Pyithu Hluttaw representative said.

The USDP won 388 of 493 seats in the national legislatures, while an additional 25 percent are reserved for serving military personnel.

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