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Several politicians have lashed out at Burmese President Thein Sein following a speech on Wednesday to mark the third anniversary of his government in which he praised his administration’s progress and expressed his “delight” at the country’s “achievement of national consolidation to a satisfactory extent and a new political culture of partnership”.
Speaking to DVB, various observers said that the Thein Sein administration had done nothing to resolve economic difficulties for rural and working-class people, and pointed to a failed policy of land reform in which thousands of farmers now have lost their land and cannot cultivate crops.
Saw Than Myint, a spokesman for the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBF), complained that the Burmese government “claims to be stepping forward, but is in reality going nowhere”.
“We don’t see any improvement,” he said.
Khin Maung Swe, leader of the National Democratic Front, echoed Saw Than Myint’s sentiment, saying: “Reforms are taking place, but without any pace”.
In his speech to parliament on Wednesday, Thein Sein emphasised the role of the army, saying: “The armed forces will continue to play a role in our democratic transition. There is also a need for our armed forces to continue to be included in the political negotiations to help find a solution to our political issues.
“We will be able to steadily reduce the role of the army as we mature democratically and as we see progress in our peace-building efforts.”
However, well-known writer Htet Myat said building a democratic state does not include a role for the army.
“The fact that 25 percent of parliament comprises soldiers shows that the 2008 constitution must be amended,” he said. “The Tatmadaw [armed forces] should not play a political role in a democratic country.”
Mya Aye of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society said the role of the military should be diminished, but that it will take time, under the current circumstances, to abolish its political position.
“I want to make clear that the duty of the Tatmadaw is to serve and defend the country,” he said. “Therefore it must stand outside the realm of parliament.”