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In a speech delivered at his official residence on Tuesday, Burma’s President Htin Kyaw said that there should be no “great wall” between the country’s civilians and its armed forces.
“I want to have a friendly relationship. Actually, all are my brothers and relatives,” he said at a gathering to mark Thingyan, the Burmese Buddhist New Year.
Recalling the role of the military during Burma’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule, he said there was a time when civilians would sacrifice their lives for soldiers, showing that there was a “mutual relationship” between the two sides.
“When we work together, everything will be smooth and harmonious. We will get better results in working for our country,” he added.
But even as he struck a conciliatory note with the armed forces, he said he wished for the country’s citizens to be free from “charges by the government” — an apparent reference to the former military junta’s use of politically-motivated criminal charges to suppress dissent.
He made the remarks before an audience that included government ministers, celebrities, the vice commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and Thura Shwe Mann, one of the top generals in the former regime who later became speaker of the lower house of Burma’s quasi-civilian parliament.
Absent from the gathering at his residence in Naypyidaw were armed forces commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy.