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Speech-making alone may not change Myanmar

By Zin Linn
December 9, 2013

President U Thein Sein of Myanmar/Burma used to say that his government recognizes political reforms as essential to create development of economic reforms. He also used to pronounce that his government has attempted to ensure involvement of all the citizens in the political process.

Besides, he also underscored that his government has worked out continually to promote equal rights for every citizen to enjoy job opportunities in the course of economic reforms. He puts emphasis on rural development and poverty alleviation for socioeconomic development of rural people.

However, after three in office, none of U Thein Sein’s calculations came true since ceasefire process seems uncertain and unemployment rate yet to be declined. Furthermore, his government cannot stop land grabbing activities launched by the military and cronies who ignored the miseries of the poor farmers as well as President’s reform policy.

Now, on December 1, on his tour to hundred-acre Aung Mingala modern farmland in Kyaunggon Township in Delta area, President U Thein Sein continues saying that the objective of the government’s reform process is accomplishing the two requirements of the citizens to guarantee peace and stability and the rule of law and socioeconomic development of the nation through implementation of agriculture sector improvement. He added that the ongoing tasks for agriculture sector development are meant to generate incomes of rural people and to create more job opportunities.

Human resources development is essential to economic success in the region, he said, in so doing generating incomes and improving education and health standards of local people. He called on local people to use their full competence in agriculture sector for ensuring food surplus as well as food sufficiency.

He pointed out that unity is a must for implementation of national, regional development activities. It is required to change mindset and to drop bad behaviors that can affect sense of cooperation and common good, he added.

On November 18, at an opening of national workshop on rural development strategic framework held at Myanmar International Convention Centre- MICC, President U Thein Sein also said development of agriculture and livestock sectors will be accomplished, when incomes of rural people are increased and poverty rate be reduced. It is also obligatory to generate intended per capita income to be able to obtain for every citizen.

One contradictory point is that President highlights the importance of political reforms as vital to economic development. However, he and his government grab the unfair constitution which does not help ensuring involvement of all the citizens in the political process as well as in economic contribution with reference to equal rights, especially for the rural population.

On 30 November, President U Thein Sein met with active supporters from some civil society organizations in Myanmar. The CSO-members pointed the finger at the reformist president of reluctant to grant them enough free space to have an effect on country’s democratic transformation. Although the government said that it has been moving towards democratic system, the activists from civil-based organizations have been banned practicing their right to freedom of expression.

On that occasion, U Thein Sein said at one point, “I would like to say that civil society and community- based organizations can freely work on political, economic, and social development issues according to their principles and beliefs. However, at present when your organizations are facing a delicate situation, uncertainty or other challenges, I encourage you to avoid confrontational attitudes and instead resolve issues through dialogue. In conclusion, as you find solutions through dialogue, I urge you, in your capacity as an organization or as a private citizen to act in a manner that further strengthens the current political reforms to achieve lasting change.”

Even though the President said that the CSOs can freely work on political, economic, and social development issues in keeping with their principles and values, they have to use dialogue to settle the problems instead of using challenging attitudes. His words look like threats rather than encouragement.

According to the Irrawaddy News, environmentalists at Saturday’s meeting also complained that a lack of transparency and cooperation from governmental departments had created a trust gap.

“We have to question whether the government will consider civil society organizations as enemies and control us or take us as friends with whom to work together,” said Myint Zaw, an environmentalist from EcoDev, reading out a speech from the group’s director – as reported by the Irrawaddy News.

President has pledged to bring about ‘transparency’ and ‘good governance’ in the professed pro-democracy country, since taking office in March 2011. But questions hang around unbeatably whether U Thein Sein recognizes working together with people-based CSOs since Myanmar is a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Despite the consequences of political, economic and social reforms, the country has still in the middle of the troubles associated with the Letpadaung Taung copper-mine project, issues on land rights, communal conflict in Rakhine State and the impasse of peacemaking in Kachin state.

President U Thein Sein's message to the last parliamentary session refusing the withdrawal of electricity-price hiking seems against not only the people's will but also his own reform scheme of poverty alleviation. President U Thein Sein sent a letter dated 14 November to the parliament, mentioning electricity payment hikes will not be cut and will go into operation in the next fiscal year, as reported by media.

But, the President's letter seems to be overpowering upon the Parliament on this matter of electricity fees hiking. According to the Daily Eleven, Members of Parliament said that the topic needs the people's agreement in order to make judgment for hiking payment for electricity consumptions.

In brief, U Thein Sein has delivered a lot of public speeches through the state-run media since his presidential inauguration. According to some watchful citizens, the President’s speeches seem empty rhetoric since the citizens have been disappointed with the government’s negligence policies relating to public affairs such as health, education and job creation.

Earlier this year, people are paying attention to listen the President’s speeches. But later, they are not so interested in his propagation since his words never change into good results. For instance, he cannot even trim down the electricity charges for the poor. Citizens used to say in these days that words without implementation may not change Myanmar to become a free democratic nation.

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