Burma, also known as Myanmar, President Thein Sein met his Italian counterpart Mr. Giorgeo Napolitano at Quieinale Palace in Rome, Italy Wednesday, the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Friday. The two presidents discussed the current political and economic reforms, protection of human rights, and development of peacemaking in Burma.

They also talked about a closer partnership in trade, culture and other sectors. Italy is expected to give assistance in the agricultural growth of Burma and microfinance works. In addition, the two countries look forward to work together with their armed forces. The Italian President was invited to travel around Burma by President Thein Sein.

The newspaper also said that President Thein Sein also met the Italian Prime Minister Professor Mario Monti at Chigi Palace. The two discussed continuing reforms, peacemaking development and the situation in Kachin and Rakhine states. Moreover, they talked about the investment prospects in Burma and at the same time the two leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries.

President Thein Sein held a press conference with European Commission President Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso at the office of the European Commission in Brussels of Belgium on 5 March 2013, Tuesday. (Photo: President Office Website)

According to the state-run newspaper, Burma Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Wunna Maung Lwin and Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Giulio Maria Terzi Sant’ Agata signed an Agreement on the Treatment (Cancellation and Rescheduling) of the Debt and Agreement on Debt-for-Development Swap.

Additionally, the Italian President and Prime Minister acknowledged the political, economic and executive reforms being brought into Burma by the present Thein Sein government. As a result, the Italian government guarantees to offer more assistance and a strong team spirit helping Burma so as to overcome challenges in the transition stage.

As said by The New light of Myanmar, two nations agreed that the EU should lift the overall sanctions against Burma and the national exporters of Burma should have access to the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP), promising actions to ensure positive results when the EU reviewed those cases.

President Thein Sein had a meeting with the European Commission President Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso at the office of the European Commission in Brussels of Belgium on Tuesday, 5 March. At the time Thein Sein also explained the economic and political reform processes in his country and the ongoing responsibilities involved in the peacemaking process. Then, he especially asked for cooperation between Burma and the EU in order to do away with economic sanctions and granting GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) to Burma, and humanitarian assistance for the Kachin and Rakhine States.

He said during a press conference, “We are one of the poorest countries in the world. We lack the institutions that are necessary to manage our transition. We will face many challenges and there may well be set-backs. But you have my promise that we will continue this path until we succeed. My government will do everything in its powers to see Myanmar become the democratic, prosperous, and peaceful nation that I know all of our people deeply desire, and deserve.”

Even though, there are appalling consequences of political, economic and social reforms, the country has learned from the facts. The troubles associated with the Letpadaung Taung project, land grabbing violence, riots in Rakhine State and the deadlock of peace in Kachin state are good examples.

Coincidentally, AFP News on Friday said that the UN human rights watcher Tomas Ojea Quintana, set to present a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council next week, urged foreign nations to be cautious as they jostle to do business in the former pariah state.

“I believe the international community is facing now a kind of tension between two kinds of interests. There’s a strong interest on economics. A lot of countries want to start doing business with Myanmar. We need to welcome that, it’s important, as it might bring development,” Quintana told reporters.

According to Quintana, some laws – for instance rules concerning peaceful assembly – passed by the Thein Sein government go against the international human rights standards.

“People are still finding themselves arrested and imprisoned for holding demonstrations,” Quintana said.

The civilian constitution effectively guarantees impunity for past human rights violations, he noted, and the army still appoints 25 percent of lawmakers.

The most controversial point is that President Thein Sein highlights the importance of political reforms as crucial to change the country into a democracy. But he and his government have used the undemocratic 2008 constitution which does not ensure the involvement of all citizens in the political process concerning equal rights, especially for the ethnic population.

Many ethnic leaders emphasize that they don’t have faith in the inequitable 2008 constitution. They believe it is a lopsided and autocratic charter since the Burmese military seized 25 percent of all seats in the existing parliament.

Many analysts criticize the current constitution and say it will not grant the democratic freedom and the fundamental rights not only for the ethnic groups but also for the whole nation. To start a genuine political reform, President Thein Sein himself must change his mind-set in order to match with a democratic style of practice.