Monday, February 7, 2011

Sizing up President Thein Sein

Monday, 07 February 2011 15:03 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The following assessments of newly elected President Thein Sein include comments from people in economic, political and human rights circles. 

khinshwe-febsKhin Shwe (Upper House member of Parliament, USDP)

He has experience in international relations and as the incumbent prime minister. He is well versed in the international community. He made several official international tours. He is familiar with the economy and social affairs in his capacity as prime minister, and he should well know that the Burmese economy must be reconstructed.

I hope the Burmese economy will grow. The SPDC [the ruling junta] has established peace in the country and has improved the  road infrastructure so the next step should be to build the  economy from these fundamentals. In my constituency, the major issue to be tackled is high unemployment.

Myo Zaw Aung (joint general secretary, National Democratic Force)

I cannot say definitely if the current situation will be better or not. Previously, our country was ruled by the military junta. Now we have a new political system including elected members of the Parliament and various assembles, no matter if this system is really democratic or not. So the form of the government has changed.

I wish Thein Sein would work for good governance and respect for more human rights, development and growth of the economy, by increasing the per capital income to uplift the current socio-economic level.

Bo Htet Min (a retired military officer)

He is adept at office administration and paper work. He is not a fighter. He has held only a pen in his hand, so he has no qualifications in military skills. He’s not a good leader. He is gentle, skilled, clever in office paper work. He has been wavering and indecisive in some areas.

I don’t see him as an efficient leader for the country and the people. Also national reconciliation and dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi will not be possible under his leadership. He has never taken bold steps in his life.

nyan-win-nld-sNyan Win (a central executive committee member of the National League for Democracy)

I see the convening of Parliament and electing President Thein Sein as formal and routine and pre-planned. There’s nothing significant in these events. I mean I don’t see any significant change in national reconciliation and democracy. It would be welcomed if they [the junta] decided to work for national unity and national reconciliation.

Sai Hsaung Hsi (a member of the Lower House representing the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party)

He was elected a member of Parliament, and he was elected president of the Parliament, so the form of government has been changed by moving to an electoral system from the previous ‘appointed’ system by the military government. Now a separation of powers has been established according to the new Constitution and the political parties have been established too. So the current system is different from the past.

He must mingle with the international community as the elected president, and he must work in accordance with international norms. Now the current system has been changed to a multi-party democracy with a civilian government. Than Sein is a person with a great deal of experience.

Ye Tun (chairman, 88-Generation Students and Youth– Union of Myanmar)

I don’t see it as a change. Now the top military brass has taken control of the new government, which is established in accordance with the new Constitution, after changing their social organisation into a political party.

Thein Sein must address the nation for the first time. He should lead the country by avoiding the bitter legacy of the past and he should leave a good legacy for the future.

Aung-Myo-MinAung Myo Min (director, Human Rights Education Institute of Burma)
The president-elect is the incumbent prime minister of the country. When we look back at his tenure as PM, he has worked as the chairman of the committee to eliminate child soldiers. We have seen that this committee has not yet done as much as it should have done.

There were continuing human right violations while he has served as PM. He could not fulfill his duty to eliminate the weaknesses in the judiciary system, letting perpetrators escape without punishment and taking no action on violators. All of these things are failures.

U Ithiria (in charge of foreign affairs, International Monks Association of Burma)

They just changed their military uniforms into civilian dress and changed the name of the administrative system from military-ruled to a so-called democratic system. But the essence remains unchanged because we can still see the continuing military-style rule.

David Tarkapaw (vice chairman, Karen National Union)

Thein Sein is an ex-soldier. Only the form of the government has changed from military to civilian but the essence has not been changed. So the new system cannot produce any significant change. The ethnic rights sought by ethnic groups will not be achieved. I don’t think Thein Sein can resolve the issues on ethnic rights and democracy.

Aung Naing Oo (Burma analyst and observer)

In the previous system, everything had to be done as dictated by the strongman, Than Shwe. Everybody who was in power had a connection with Than Shwe and had to be loyal to Than Shwe. It was difficult to achieve any breakthroughs in that system. Military people like Thein Sein and Tin Aung Myint Oo are qualified and have high caliber skills. They didn’t reach their top posts by only listening to Than Shwe and nodding their heads to whatever he said. They are not merely ‘yes’ men. They are capable.

Often times, they couldn’t show their real skills under Than Shwe’s rule. So the success of the current system will depend on how much the new government led by President Thein Sein can free itself from the old system that has always been dominated by Senior General Than Shwe.

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