March 21, 2018

Myanmar president swears smooth handover of power

Thein Sein

Thein Sein, Myanmar’s president promised to obey the rules to make  a smooth transition sure to a new government in the next year, after his ruling party was trounced in the general election on 8 November.

President Thein Sein, whose Union Solidarity and Development party lost by a landslide to the National League for Democracy of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, spoke at a meeting with the leaders of more than 70 political parties to discuss the period before power is handed over early next year when the new parliament is seated.

“We have successfully held the crucial election [leading] from the current transition period toward the transformation of our country,” Thein Sein, a former general, said, referring to his leadership of the first elected government after almost five decades of military rule. His party, however, was generally seen as being under the sway of the army.

Thein Sein won praise from some of the leaders for holding a transparent, free and fair election, and accepting the results with grace.

Others, however, highlighted the problem of fighting between the army and ethnic rebel groups seeking greater autonomy, and urged his government to stop its offensives. The Shan ethnic minority in the north-east says the army has recently stepped up attacks against them.

“We want the president to kindly stop the offensive war that is happening in Shan state and let the displaced people go back to their homes,” said Sai Tun Aung, vice-chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy.

Eight ethnic armed groups recently signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government, and political parties will participate in the drafting of a framework for a political dialogue for a permanent solution to those groups’ demands. The dialogue is due to start by mid-January.

The outgoing parliament, meanwhile, will convene another session on Monday and, despite the lame duck status of its members, debate legislation including the next national budget.

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