Burma: President delivers New Year message, but avoids Kachin issue
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Burma: President delivers New Year message, but avoids Kachin issue

Burma’s President Thein Sein delivered his first New Year radio message Tuesday, but failed to address some of the biggest issues facing the country. The speech was also published in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper today.  The president said in his message that the most important factor for triumph of the nation’s democratic evolution is the mutual trust between the government and the people.

President Thein Sein said that he spoke directly to the people to narrow the gap between the government and the citizens in favor of creating a new direct necessary communication link for the society. His government has been striving to develop transparent communication channel and his cabinet ministers have been providing the people with information, he said. So, he decided to speak on radio which is still an effective channel of communication, he added.

The 67-year-old ex-general, who acted as prime minister in the previous junta, has been acknowledged by Western governments for recent reforms, including giving a political space to key opposition figure and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, easing restrictions on the press, releasing important political prisoners and allowing activities of non-governmental organizations in social movement.

In reality, countless citizens say they see no difference to their destitute standard of living. However, the President put a more positive spin on the situation. He asked the people to make an effort in the reform period by means of aspiring to do their best.

“The most important thing for the entire society is to shape the promising future through ongoing reform processes,” he stated in the New Year message.

The people as well as the government need to be aware of the gap between demand of the people and capacity of the government, he pointed out.  The responsibility is on citizens to strive to improve the situation, he said.

Additionally, he expressed his perspective that if each and every citizen works together with united efforts similar to the time of independence struggles, surely the country will overcome the challenges of change ahead.

“The world nations were amazed at Myanmar’s impressive political progress in 2012. It can be said that we laid together a foundation of political system needed for ensuring better socioeconomic status on daily basis of our society. Plans are under way in accord with ‘Economic and Social Reform Framework’ to enable each and every citizen to enjoy the fruitful results of general reforms upcoming years. We will constantly inform the people of our government’s stance and actions.”

Looking back at the recent past, the President held his first press conference for local press on 21 October. It was a landmark event after the former military regime’s restriction on free press for decades.

Thein Sein answered nearly three dozen questions from domestic news journals and foreign correspondents on various subjects ranging from current war in Kachin state to the possibility of amending the 2008 constitution drawn by the previous junta.

The President said that armed conflicts starting from the post-independence period were still going on in the country. Due to those rebellions, he said, the country has faced difficulties to promote the nation as a developed one.

In fact, government armed forces have launched a number of aggressive assaults in recent weeks on the Kachin frontline, including air-strikes. Fighting is ongoing in Kachin and Northern Shan State in the face of government peacemaking pledges to the United States and the EU.  All the battles have occurred in KIO’s territories, including some areas occupied by government troops after a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

Government authorities often say that fighting is ongoing in Kachin areas due to mixed-up positions of both troops in frontline areas. Actually, the government troops have violated the 1994 ceasefire agreement and invaded Kachin controlled areas.

Even though the Kachin war is a great barrier in the way of Thein Sein’s professed reform, he did not mention the facts about the heavy fighting against the KIO in his New Year message. According to KIO’s spokesperson Salang Kaba Lah Nan, the government army has been gearing up for a major military offensive against the KIO using around hundred battalions.

Mutual trust between the government and the Kachin people will not be reached easily. And the President’s ongoing reform processes may not be materialize at all. People will also think his New Year message is an empty memo.