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Thein Sein gives interview to The Washington Post


(Mizzima) – Burmese President Thein Sein has given his first-ever foreign interview to the The Washington Post, which was published on Friday, January 20. Reporter Lally Weymouth spoke with him in Naypyitaw in a wide-ranging interview that covered Aung San Suu Kyi as a possible cabinet minister, establishing peace in ethnic areas, North Korea and other issues.

Burmese President Thein Sein speaks in Parliament wearing traditional Burmese dress. Photo: MizzimaHer first question was why did Thein Sein undertake a reform process that has moved Burma toward democracy in a series of governmental laws and decrees during 2011.

“The reform measures are being undertaken based on the wishes of the people [who want] to see our country have peace and stability as well as economic development,” he said. “To have internal peace and stability and economic development, it is important to have good relations with the political parties that we have in our country. That is why we have had engagement with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. In my meeting with Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi, we were able to reach an understanding between the two of us.”

Thein Sein, who is a former general, said he wanted “to shed some light” on cease-fire negotiations with ethnic armed groups and the series of peace negotiations that have taken place during the past six months. An end to the violence is a key demand among Western nations, which have called for peace and free access to ethnic area of the country.

“First of all, we need to build confidence between the two sides,” he said. “We have reached agreements on certain things.

“This requires the two sides to sign an agreement and return to the legal fold without carrying arms. There are a total of 11 armed groups in our country. We have engagement with all the armed groups. We also have agreements with some of the ethnic armed groups. But this is not over yet. We are continuing negotiations.” He said he wanted to achieve “eternal peace in the country,” but that it would take time.  

Asked if Suu Kuy could be picked as a cabinet member, Thein Sein appeared to dance around the question, saying, “All of the cabinet ministers that we have now are appointed based on the agreement given by the Parliament. If one has been appointed or agreed on by the Parliament, we will have to accept that she becomes a cabinet member.”

Looking at U.S.-Burma relations, he said he hoped the U.S. would upgrade relations to the ambassadorial level, and that U.S. sanctions would ease and eventually be eliminated, a point he returned to in the interview several times.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) responded to Thein Sein’s statement by saying it would be too early for the U.S. and its allies to lift economic sanctions because the reforms aren't complete yet, according to The Associated Press. A spokesperson said they welcomed the notion of a Cabinet post for Suu Kyi, while saying it was too early to discuss the matter, but she “is a very capable leader and she could take any leading position.”

Regarding the Burma and North Korea relationship, he told the The Washington Post: “These are only allegations. We don't have any nuclear or weapons cooperation with (North Korea).”
Last Updated ( Friday, 20 January 2012 17:49 )  

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