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Calling national reconciliation her government’s top priority, Aung San Suu Kyi urged Burma’s people on Sunday to cooperate in the “herculean task” of rebuilding the country after half a century of military rule.
In her first Burmese New Year’s speech to the nation as head of the new National League for Democracy-led government, Suu Kyi acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead, but said that “nothing is unachievable” with public support.
The speech comes as optimism over the country’s prospects for peace and prosperity clashes with concerns about the new government’s lack of experience and the military’s lingering influence.
Suu Kyi — speaking in her capacity as state counselor, a role created for her against the objections of military appointees to Burma’s parliament — sought to put those worries to rest by reaching out to her predecessors.
“Yes, we lack experience. But we are not reluctant to work together with the experienced individuals. We’ve no idea of ignoring the people from the old regimes. We want everybody who can bring benefit to the country to join our hands,” she said, according to an unofficial translation provided by state media.
While she vowed to continue the previous quasi-civilian government’s efforts to bring internal peace through talks with ethnic armed groups, however, her repeated stance on creating a “genuine, federal democratic union” through changes to the military-drafted 2008 constitution put the country’s powerful armed forces on notice that the NLD would push forward with planned changes long opposed by Burma’s generals.
Seeking to bolster its image as a government that can get things done, the administration announced on Sunday that another 83 political prisoners had been released, in addition to nearly 200 others who were freed a week after after the NLD took power on 1 April.
Tint San, the CEO of the now-defunct Unity Journal and one of the prsoners released yesterday after serving nearly two years of a 10-year sentence for publishing an article alleging that the armed forces was running a secret chemical-weapons factory, welcomed the move but said it was still just a start.
“There are still political prisoners in the prisons, so I would like to ask [the government] to release them, too,” he told DVB in an interview shortly after his release from Pakokku Prison in Magway Division on Sunday.
He acknowledged, however, that pushing for more would not be easy.
“The new government should be careful, as there are many problems left from the previous government,” he said, adding that journalists should follow the same advice, because “25 percent of the seats in parliament are taken by armed forces appointees, and they will not tolerate even a word attacking the military.“
Meanwhile, Nay Myo Zan, a prominent activist who was also freed yesterday, said that with a democratically-elected government now in power, he saw no further need for protests.
“I don’t think I need to protest, because there is now a people’s government, and there are still some people from the old system who would like to create problems for the government,” he said.
For his part, however, Tint San said that he wouldn’t refrain from pointing out problems with the new government if he felt it was necessary.
“I will do my job as a journalist. Even though this government is the one we want, we will keep watching it and criticising in order to give constructive advice,” he said.