New President Vows to Bring Democracy, Human Rights to Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 30 March 2018

YANGON — Myanmar’s new president vowed in his inauguration speech on Friday to implement democracy, human rights and other social changes that the public has long been waiting for.

“By applying the lessons learned from the challenges and crises we have experienced in the past, our government will try its best, with full impartiality, to bring about democracy and the respect for human rights that our people long for, U Win Myint said.

Laying out a roadmap for the remaining three years of the National League for Democracy-led government’s current term, the president vowed to crack down on corruption and the illegal drug trade, and to reform the country’s weak judicial system.

U Win Myint was inaugurated as the country’s 10th president on Friday morning at the Union Parliament along with two vice presidents. He was elected by a parliamentary vote on Wednesday.

In his inauguration speech to the Union Parliament on Friday, U Win Myint emphasized the need for all parties to be open to change if the country’s democratic transition is to succeed. He warned that “close supervision would be imposed on departments reluctant to make changes,” referring to the fact that some department officials loyal to the previous government had resisted implementing changes ordered by the NLD government.

The 67-year-old acknowledged that Myanmar today faces problems in every sector, while challenges mount both at home and abroad.

“While it’s impossible to tackle them all, I will do my best to prioritize them,” he said.

In a 7-minute-long speech delivered in front of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, military chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, Union cabinet members and lawmakers, the president said the government would tackle corruption; take steps to combat drug trafficking; provide compensation for illegally confiscated land; and uphold human rights. He also vowed to improve the lives of farmers, workers and students.

“To make this happen, the three pillars of the country [legislative, judiciary and executive] need mutual understanding and respect, and to coordinate their activities for the interests of the people,” he said.

He urged the public to take the social role of the media sector seriously, describing the media as the eyes and ears of the people.

U Win Myint assumes the presidency at a time when Myanmar faces both domestic and international challenges. At home, peace with ethnic armed groups continues to prove elusive, and the economy is in decline due to mismanagement. And while the country now has a democratically elected civilian government, the military retains a strong influence.

Internationally, the NLD government has come under unprecedented criticism for its handling of the Rohingya issue; more than 600,000 Muslims have fled Rakhine State for Bangladesh since August last year, alleging arbitrary killing, rape and torture at the hands of security forces. The UN has accused of the country of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, though the government has repeatedly denied this. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has come under criticism for her silence on the issue.

Mindful of the situation, Myanmar’s 10th president said on Friday: “We need to keep working to raise the dignity of our citizens as well as the image of the country in the international community.”