Thein Sein Holds Milestone First Press Briefing

President Thein Sein at 1st press briefing (Photo: THE IRRAWADDY)

NAYPYIDAW—Burma’s reformist president held his first press conference for local media in a national milestone after years of secrecy and censorship by the former military regime.

Thein Sein did not break any stunning news when he answered about 30 questions from local press and foreign correspondents on subjects ranging from fighting with ethnic rebels in the north to amending the country’s military-fashioned Constitution.

The ex-general’s mere appearance, however, told the story about his country’s turn from secrecy and paranoia to relative openness. Sunday’s news conference in the capital Naypyidaw ran 20 minutes past its scheduled two-hour length.

The 67-year-old, who had been prime minister under the ruling junta, looked tense as he started answering questions but soon relaxed enough to reveal a little-known sense of humor.

Explaining why he was holding the pioneering press conference, he told of being interviewed many times during his recent visit to the United States and said he had the hardest time answering questions on the inquisitorial BBC program, “Hardtalk.”

After surviving that experience, he said, he’s no longer afraid of meeting with the media. But he added that he feared he would also be criticized by Burma’s media if he did not come out to talk at home after giving so many interviews abroad.

Thein Sein avoided revealing too much, speaking only in general terms even about critical matters such as the fighting in Kachin State, which reflects a deeper, long-running problem of how much autonomy to give the large ethnic minorities living in border regions.

In what many see as an example of the government’s weakness compared to the still-influential military, his orders last year for the army to cease its fighting against the Kachin Independence Army were ignored.

“To get a ceasefire agreement is our government’s goal,” he said when asked about the matter. “It’s the people’s desire to get peace and we are doing our best for the people’s desire.”

He was also asked whether he plans to contest the 2015 general election for a second presidential term. He replied that he has been thinking only of his current term.

Thein Sein was asked if he would give opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi a role in his government. His reforms lured her National League for Democracy party back into electoral politics, and it should be a major challenge to his party in the next polls.

Whether or not she takes a role in government depends on her, Thein Sein said.


5 Responses to Thein Sein Holds Milestone First Press Briefing

  1. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Well, what about it?
    We need to know MORE ABOUT HOW/WHAT are HIS ANSWERS  to the QUESTIONS on the MATTERS mentioned of course. 

  2. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    Burma has made up its mind what it wants, a tolerated democratic system. This is  indispensable first step to keeping the people of Burma informed with the success and challenges that the country is facing. This awareness of the need to press briefing is also the first step to a change for government public relationship through the public media.This first press briefing of Burmese leader might look like fool but U Thein Sein dares to do so, that represents the first step to the direction of his wisdom, unfolding urgency of his desire for openness and reaching out to the people of Burma and international community.  That is all it takes to accomplish something; the first step, a press briefing. Burma has just opened up through its reform process to democracy; it means there will be many more first step in a lot of different areas to be unfolded. Be patient! One step at a time!The Burmese Freedom Fighter 

  3. These guys are real pantomime actors. But it is their job to fool. 

    What about this enlightened “Media people”? Sucking up any little opportunity to spread the lies.

    “..His mere appearance,..’ What a load of old crock!

    Ask them to hang Than Shwe for war crimes. Now, that is freedom. 

  4. It is something at least. Openness and transparency are the ways we can achieve trust in building Federal Union of Burma or United States of Burma.

  5. One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.

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