Reconciliation Key to Developing Myanmar’s Democracy, President Says

By Nan Lwin 16 September 2019

YANGON—President U Win Myint on Sunday urged all citizens to understand that “democracy in Myanmar is still in the fledgling stage”, adding that in order to strengthen democratic practices, national differences should be resolved through negotiations built on the basic foundations of tolerance, patience and forgiveness.

At an event to celebrate International Democracy Day 2019 in the capital Naypyitaw, President U Win Myint emphasized that racial problems and disagreements are the major obstacles to the development of democracy in countries that lack it or in which it is in the fledgling stage.

Amid the country’s ongoing struggle to sign ceasefire agreements with ethnic armed groups, he stressed that broader participation by ethnic people is very important for effective democratization, peacebuilding and developing a democratic federal republic.

“Absolute trust in democracy should be developed with national reconciliation by avoiding hate speech and by overcoming animosity,” he said.

This year’s theme for International Democracy Day was “Participation”. The event was attended by Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Union ministers, lawmakers, government officials, ambassadors, and representatives of political parties and international organizations.

In his 12-minute speech, U Win Myint asked people to help maintain and foster democracy in Myanmar. He also assured ethnic groups in Myanmar that the government is striving to bring about a democratic federal republic to restore democracy and federal rights.

U Win Myint said, “Reciprocally, the practices of a federal system will strengthen the country’s democracy. Fundamental democratic norms and federal principles must not be neglected. These principles ensure equal rights and self-rule for ethnic people, and help them live in unity.”

Last month, clashes escalated between the military and three of the four Northern Alliance (NA) members in many townships in northern Shan State, forcing thousands of villagers to flee their homes. The government’s Peace Commission and representatives of the NA met in late August in Kengtung, eastern Shan State. While both sides have agreed to meet in Kengtung again next week, the fighting continues in northern Shan State.

The President said, “The right solution will be found when every stakeholder brings an open mind and a fair opinion.”

In his speech, he did not forget to mention the National League for Democracy (NLD) government’s effort to amend the 2008 military-drafted Constitution, even though the effort has drawn strong objections from military appointees in Parliament and lawmakers from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

U Win Myint said the norms of democracy and basic human rights should be enshrined in the charter by creating, amending and withdrawing constitutional provisions and laws.

“It is very important to filter out destructive acts during the process of democratization. Moreover, practices that value democracy and human rights should be included in this process,” he added.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech for International Democracy Day urged Myanmar people to help democracy thrive, and to balance self-interest with the public interest while doing so.

“If we really value democracy and wish to see it flourish, we must strike a balance between self-interest and public interest. More and more countries and institutions are accepting democracy through the belief that majority actions are more effective for [achieving the] majority interest,” she said.

“Some people think that democracy is just for self-gain. A person always thinking about self-gain is one who fails to appreciate [democracy’s] value,” she said.

She said she hopes that all citizens are willing to serve democracy, adding that having the wisdom to know how to apply one’s individual capability is of vital importance.

At the event, June Kunugi, the UNICEF representative to Myanmar, read out a message sent by the UN Secretary General. Also present were military lawmakers and representatives of the NLD, Wa Democratic Party (WDP), National Unity Party (NUP), Kokang Democracy and Unity Party (KDUP), Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP), Lisu National Development Party (LNDP), Pa-O National Organization (PNO), Zomi Congress for Democracy (ZCD), Ta’ang (Palaung) National Party (TNP), Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), Arakan National Party (ANP) and USDP.

Myanmar has held events to mark International Democracy Day in Naypyitaw since 2011.

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