Monday, October 22, 2012

Thein Sein holds first domestic press conference

Monday, 22 October 2012 12:39 Mizzima News

Burma’s long delayed Foreign Investment Law could be passed within a few days, President Thein Sein said on Sunday, in his first-ever press conference with the media in Naypyitaw.

President Thein Sein speaks to the media during a press conference at the presidential residence in Naypyitaw on Sunday, October 21, 2012.  The president answered more than 30 questions for more than two hours. Photo: Ye Min / Mizzima 

The press conference ran 20 minutes past its scheduled 2-hour length, said The Associated Press. About 120 journalists attended the conference.

The president looked tense as he began answering questions but soon relaxed enough to reveal a little-known sense of humor, said AP. He said that after surviving an interview on the BBC program "Hardtalk,” he was no longer afraid of meeting with the media.

But he said he feared he would be criticized by Burma’s media if he didn't come out to talk at home after giving so many interviews abroad during his trip to speak at the UN in New York City.

Little new ground was broken in the press conference, which covered a wide range of issues

He said the government was still working to achieve peace in Kachin State.

In response to a journalist’s question, Thein Sein said that his salary is five million kyat, (US$ 5,871), he does not receive the entire amount because of the country’s financial situation.

The foreign investment law had been returned to Parliament by Thein Sein, who asked that changes be made to make it more attractive to foreign businesses.

In past sessions, the legislation went through numerous changes in order to find a balance between protecting domestic businesses and attracting foreign investment to speed up the modernization of Burma’s undeveloped economy.

But earlier versions of the law reflected restrictions on foreign investment to safeguard domestic monopolies and prevent foreign takeovers of joint ventures. Some Burmese officials criticized the most recent draft of the bill as too protectionist, said a Voice of America (VOA) article on Sunday.

American companies such as General Electric and Coca-Cola already have begun work with Burmese distributors to reach local consumers. But other multinational companies have held off seeking more clarity on Burmese laws before investing in its economy.

Since his 2011 election, Thein Sein’s government has introduced numerous reforms that represent a break with the secrecy and censorship of the country's former military leadership, in which he served as prime minister.

The Parliament is expected to take up a new media reform law this session. However, it is still at the ministerial level where it is being recrafted after consultation with professional journalists’ organizations, which have said the bill did not go far enough to protect media freedom and free speech.

Thein Sein also said that he may run for a second presidential term in 2015, saying he will “consider it, depending on the situation of the country and if the people want me to.”

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