Thein Sein: Myanmar faces challenges

Sept. 28, 2012 at 1:30 AM
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UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Myanmar is ushering in a new era through reforms but also faces big challenges, President Thein Sein told the U.N. General Assembly.

Thein Sein, a former general who heads the 18-month-old elected civilian-led government that took over after decades of military rule, said his country, while making a transition to democracy, would need continued support and patience of its people, the United Nations and the wider international community.

"Myanmar is now ushering in a new era," he told the General Assembly. "In the ongoing reform process, we are facing challenges as well as opportunities."

He said his people have been able to bring about "amazing" changes in a short period of time. "Leaving behind a system of authoritarian government wherein the administrative, legislative and judicial powers were centralized, we have now been able to put in place a democratic government and a strong, visible Parliament," he said, U.N. News reported.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her meeting with Thein Sein, announced Washington, in recognition of the reforms in Myanmar, would begin easing restrictions on imports from that country, formerly called Burma.

"We have watched as you and your government have continued the steady process of reform, and we've been pleased to respond with specific steps that recognize the government's efforts and encourage further reform," Clinton told Thein Sein.

In his address to the United Nations, Thein Sein said other reforms have included the granting of amnesties to prisoners, successful holding of by-elections this year, abolition of media censorship, and cease-fire agreements with several armed groups in the country.

He also noted opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent nearly two decades under house arrest before her release in November 2010, is now a Parliament member.

"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," The New York Times quoted him as saying.

Thein Sein in his address also referred to the recent communal violence in the western state of Rakhine between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, and said since then a 27-member commission, made up of Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus, has been set up to investigate the violence, U.N. News said.

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