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Political inclusiveness in the lead-up to Burma’s 2015 general elections will help the country’s democratic transition, Burmese President Thein Sein said in his New Year’s Day speech to the nation.
Speaking at his monthly radio broadcast on 1 January, Thein Sein said the general election, scheduled for later this year, would provide a platform for Burmese politics to mature by allowing opposition parties a more active role through opening up dialogues with the government.
“Today – and because of our combined efforts – a new political culture where we value finding solutions through dialogue is taking root in place of unconstructive confrontational tactics,” he said.
“Because of this new political culture, the 2015 elections will mark the fist time since our independence where elections will be contested by all the political stakeholders freely and fairly.”
The political transparency on offer is also designed as an initiative for armed ethnic groups operating in various regions across Burma to take part in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the Burmese government, he said, adding that the government believes that by opening up political dialogue, ethnic armed groups will be able to take a proactive roll in politics rather than insurgency, which has been ongoing in ethnic regions for decades.
It was announced via state media on Friday that the leaders of the Kachin Independence Army and the Ta-ang National Liberation Army had been invited to the 67th Anniversary Independence Day Grand Military Review ceremony on 4 January. This is the first time these usually pariah groups have been encouraged to participate in a national event, and comes at a time when peace talks are continuing throughout the region.
“It is critical and imperative to merge the developments arising from the 2015 elections with the national reconciliation process originating from the peace process. The day we can do this is the day we can begin to build a new nation based on the ideals of a federal union and finally fulfil the needs of our nation and society at large,” Thein Sein said in his radio address.
“The government has established the Land Utilisation Management Committee all the way down to the village level in order to ensure transparency of the land reform process.”
The president also addressed the issue of land reform in Burma, which has grabbed headlines and caused protests and demonstrations throughout the country.
While the president conceded that land reform had become a contentious issue, where businesses had exploited outdated laws or loopholes, which had allowed controversial land seizures in recent years, he pledged steps were being taken to address the issue responsibly.
“The land issue is one of major challenges facing our country,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that land reforms are never easy in any country; they are particularly difficult in a transitional country like ours. The land problems we are now left to deal with were caused by unnecessarily complicated procedures practised by the previous governments and problems relation to documentation and record of ownership.”
President Sein went on to congratulate his country for holding the ASEAN chair for 2014, and for holding the Southeast Asia Games, thereby showing that Burma can stand alongside other nations in the international community.
Burma’s image-rebrand during the political transition appears to be working, as the president went onto discuss the country’s growth figures in 2014, noting that foreign investment amounted to US6.3 billion. Also, over three million tourists visited Burma in 2014, which accounted for around $3 billion in revenue.