The Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 was awarded to the European Union (EU) “for over six decades [contribution] to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
As private TV channel Sky Net relayed the live broadcast of the announcement from Norway to a Burmese audience that was especially interested this year due to the nomination of their president, Thein Sein, for the award .
It was also the first time that Burmese had watched the Nobel Prize announcement live on TV—in previous years the public could only listen via radio as when democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi won the prestigious award in 1991.
President Thein Sein won public support in Burma following the suspension of the controversial Myitsone Dam project. He then released many political prisoners including ethnic leaders and members of the 88 Generation Students group, paving the way for Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy, to contest April by-elections.
The president’s remarkable efforts at reform have also been noted abroad as Western countries lifted economic sanctions on Burma.
However, debate has been ongoing as to whether Thein Sein could be chosen while civil war continues in Kachin state.
Dr Zarni, a research fellow on Burma at London Schools of Economics and Political Science, said in his Facebook page 45 minutes before the announcement that President Thein Sein will not be awarded the prize as he is “just a puppet” of ex Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Gen Maung Aye.
In Rangoon, the speculation was so high that President Thein Sein might win that betting agents began offering odds of 12-1 on him scooping the prize.
But when the announcement was made, Thein Sein himself was reportedly at a meeting at the President’s Office in Naypyidaw, according to Maj. Zaw Htay, the director of the President’s Office.
Several observers and ethnic politicians in Burma said that if Thein Sein had won, he may have felt compelled to accelerate his peace efforts in Kachin State.