Burmese President Thein Sein told a coordinating meeting in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday that “conservatives who do not have a reformist mindset will be left behind” while the country is on its path to change.
Thein Sein admitted that certain lessons must be adopted from the by-elections which showed a real public desire for national development. “According to the experience of the by-elections, the public clearly showed that they want change and they no longer like the performance of the governing bodies in each administrative level,” he said.
During the April 1 by-elections, Burma’s main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by Nobel Laureate Aung Sann Suu Kyi, won 43 out of the 44 constituencies it contested.
Naypyidaw’s strategy of reform was widely discussed during the two-day meeting, with Vice-President Sai Mauk Kham also telling participants that “not only political, economic, administrative and social reforms are needed but there also needs to be a change to our mindset.”
Both politicians highlighted altering the attitude of administrative officials so that the country can move forward towards socio-economic development. Thein Sein again raised the significance of respect for the rule of law and provided the example of land disputes relating to investment for regional development.
“One crucial way to move our nation on from being the region’s least developed country is to work on the rule of law. Now we have good policies for change, but these policies will not succeed if those involved are not honest,” the president concluded in his address.
As Burma is now moving on the path of economic development and foreign firms are interesting in investing in the country, Thein Sein also brought up the issues of corruption, land usage policies, regional development and creating employment opportunities.
He added that the decentralization of administration management is crucial to reform so that the implementation of good and clean governance will be successful.
Moreover, the state must allow for “bottom-up initiatives” to strengthen civil society instead of just “top-down orders” for change. “Administrative officials are incapable of managing practically because society and the authorities just follow orders and decisions are made detached from the needs of the public,” he added.
Thein Sein also touched on empowering human resources and managing these assets effectively within social and economic sectors.
He also invited all kinds of Burmese citizens living abroad—including professionals, businessmen and manual labors in exile—“to come back to take part in the change process as we promise to support any difficulties they encounter.” However, he did not provide any transparent procedures for those who want to return home.
In terms of the humanitarian sector, Thein Sein said his administration will collaborate with aid groups in order to effectively respond to the needs of public.
He admitted that “international aid has not been going through government agencies because of corruption in the former administration,” and that only individuals or certain groups have benefited in the past instead of the real people in need.
The president’s action plans for reform have been posted in full on his office’s website for the first time since he assumed power last March. However, in contrast with this effort to reach the people, state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, led by Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, censored some important aspects of his speeches.
The first photo published on the Burmese language version of the President’s Office website caught the public’s attention as the seat of Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo was seen empty—adding weight to rumors that he had resigned for health reasons.