Burmese President Opens Online Postbox

The icon on the President’s Office website which invites the public to voice their opinions.

Over the past few months President Thein Sein has gone out on a limb to appear PR-savvy, media-friendly and all-inclusive.

Now his office has gone one step further in opening an online postbox, allowing ordinary citizens to vent their opinions, criticize the government, ask questions, make appeals, and even accuse officials of bribery and corruption.

The interactive move began on Friday and the official website has already received more than 50 messages, according to the director-general of the President’s Office, Maj Zaw Htay, who himself posted comments on Facebook encouraging a public response.

Zaw Htay noted, however, that the majority of the messages received to date had been sent anonymously despite the requirement for all users to list their names, email addresses, phone numbers, ID card numbers and places of residence—an indication, perhaps, that an air of distrust still pervades Burmese cyberspace.

Zaw Htay also stated on his page that the President welcomes the public’s suggestions about reform, that they should express their concerns, and report cases of corruption, abuse of power or other complaints.

Over the past year since Thein Sein took power, a culture of submitting written letters of complaint and petitions to the President’s Office has become popular culture in Burma, especially among farmers who claim their lands have been seized, factory workers and other low-paid laborers, and victims of corrupt administrators.

The most popular case was overwhelmingly the outpouring of opposition to the construction of the Myitsone Dam project at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River. The campaign was ultimately proved successful a year ago when the president ordered a postponement of the project.

“The public can never know whether their letters of complaint are taken seriously,” said the general-secretary No. 1 of the Unity and Diversity Party (UDP), Aung Myo Oo, who met with Thein Sein in August at his office in Naypyidaw.

Aung Myo Oo said he and his party colleagues are also working to help farmers with land issues. UDP leader Nay Myo Wai is currently facing trial after being sued by the Zaykabar Company for defamation. The company, owned by parliamentarian Khin Shwe, allegedly confiscated farmland in Rangoon’s Mingaladon Township.

Aung Myo Oo said the president appears to be taking the matter of public affairs seriously and had raised the issue of letters of complaint during their meeting.

Observers have roundly applauded the president for his reformist moves, and say he is moving with the times. Until now, most commentators say, it has been widely perceived among the public that any disputes or social issues are not dealt with seriously unless they are publicized in the media.

President Thein Sein last week appointed four new ministers to the President’s Office, despite some objections by MPs at the recent parliamentary session which ended on Friday. The president said these four new ministers will help improve efficiency within the administration as it deals with issues of reform and the peace process.

Pe Myint, the editor of the weekly People’s Age journal based in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy that “The government should create a mechanism to collaborate with the representatives of abused people in order to solve their problems.”

Maung Lwin, a farmer at the Bawnetgyi village in the Pegu region told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the township authorities have just begun an investigation into their letter of complaint about a corrupt village administrator. “We submitted the letter two weeks ago and now all 54 villagers have been summoned by the Pegu township administrator to testify about the village administrator’s wrongdoing,” he said.

Nay Win, a resident of Pegu, said this incident marks the first time he has heard of the authorities taking public action against one of their own.

Thein Sein welcomed all the new ministers on Monday, referring to them as public servants who are to “take the initiative without awaiting directives from their superiors or for criticism of the media to shape the government response.”

But Burma still lacks “information-transparency,” said Pe Myint. “The government should regularly release information by holding press conferences on each relevant sector,” he said.

12 Responses to Burmese President Opens Online Postbox

  1. Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.

  2. Actions will speak loudest, hopefully it will not fizzle out..

  3. This bold and unprecedented step by President Thein Sein and his Office is most welcome and deserve high commendation. The very thought that one can communicate directly with the Presidet will give comfort and confidence to the citizens that Thein Sein “cares about them”. That he is one them. Come to think of it, this is perhaps the first time since the country’s independence in 1948 that the Head of the Government and Head of the State to tell the people to contact him with their problems.

    Naphetchun MaungSein

    California USA

  4. Congratulations for this online post box.Give 24/7 electric power and efficient internet services.We will send our mails.But make sure no knocks at our door during unearthly hours.

  5. what I am reading in the news is fantastic. for the 6. time i will come to Myanmar next year. just one problem: we do not have an embassy in danmark where i live,why is it not possible to get the visa on arrival? it a big problem ….

  6. George Than Setkyar Heine

    FAIR ENOUGH I should say!
    It seems Thein Sein wants to go further – getting information about what’s going on in the country under his watch of course – and take action accordingly and in line with his obligations as well.
    That’s a SMART MOVE as well on the part of Than Shwe’s clerk of course.
    However, I am still in quandry over this guy’s moves so far to be honest.
    The CRUX of the MATTER in Burma is LACK of LAW and ORDER no doubt.
    Daw Suu’s got the IDEA since day one; hence she says RULE of LAW is NON-NEGOTIABLE and UNQUESTIONABLE for Burma’s future as well.
    And RULE of LAW should START from Thein Sein’s court (parliament) at Naypyidaw of course.
    Hence, AMENDING most preferably ABOLISHING Than Shwe’s CONSTITUTION would be BEST for a START for that matter I bet.
    Most importantly, the National Defense and Security Council – the KEY – holding absolute power and unlimited money for the JOB – continued military domination of Burma – should be ASSIGNED to the DUST BIN of HISTORY first and foremost to be followed by SCRAPPING of the clause IMMUNITY/IMPUNITY from crimes – mass/monk murders committed by Than Shwe and members of the police/armed forces while cracking down on demonstrations/dissent including the point blank shooting dead of a Japanese photo journalist in broad daylight in 2007 and of course student activists and members of the opposition (NLD and others) murdered while in detention and interrogations not to mention using rape as weapon of war on members of the ethnic minorities and forced relocation of ethnic people and of course forced labor and child soldiers as well no less.
    Today Thein Sein’s playing possum of course, ignoring the fact and beating around the bush today I say.
    Cornering Daw Suu in his corral (parliament) begs accolades/commends of course if not a master stroke.
    But he lets the cat out of the bag – a dud president if not a puppet exactly on Than Shwe’s stage (parliament) – playing dumb/deaf when Min Aung Hlaing ignored – several times – his orders to stop leaning on the KIA/Kachins.
    While Daw Suu is on her way collecting medals and honorary citizenships around the world the Chinese communists are paying visits to Burma.
    And leaning on Thein Sein as well, you bet?
    Is it a mere case of coincidence?
    I greatly doubt it of course.
    Thein Sein’s online postbox GIMMICK doesn’t hold any water much less fool me for that matter either as well folks.
    And the big picture as I see today to be honest: Thein Sein is using all his tricks/wits in his cranium and closet COVERING Than Shwe’s ass while SWEEPING UNDER THE CARPET his bloody DEEDS/HISTORY at the moment.
    NOBODY’S ABOVE THE LAW growls Shwe Mann on past several occasions and lately as well I heard.
    Let’s see whether he can do anything about it folks!

  7. Can you please send me the email address or the link for President Thein Sein’s online postbox? Thank You !! Regards – Mal

  8. I am so glad that Daw Suu is leading “Rule of Law Committee”. We do not need to write to Than Shwe or Thein Sein. Whatever we feel important, we will rather write to this committee. We do not trust them but trust her.

  9. @ Mal Milligan

    Seems it is just another PR exercise. If the email address or the link for President Thein Sein’s online postbox cannot be found by us in the West searching all over the net, what chance do the majority of the Burmese people living in Burma have ?

  10. I like and appreciate the way leaders open up themselves to have access to the people and access by the people. This is a right thing

  11. i want send by president post how can i do?

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