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In his monthly radio address to the nation on 1 October, Burma’s President Thein Sein emphasised the current round of peace talks with ethnic groups, saying that the peace process was related to a long-term plan aimed at realizing national reconciliation.
Thein Sein’s monthly speech was aired on national radio on Tuesday morning around the same time as the president was flying to Sittwe en route to inspect destruction in Sandoway where some 70 houses had been torched the day before in the latest bout of communal violence to rack the country. As security was beefed up around Sandoway district, the president’s visit was cancelled and he returned to the capital.
In his speech on Tuesday, which was also published in state media, President Thein Sein focused mainly on the ongoing peace process. He said that the process is delicate and that all successive governments have tried but not succeeded in achieving national reconciliation.
“Although there are some setbacks, the current state of the peace process unambiguously shows that the achievements outweigh the setbacks,” he said. “We should also congratulate our dialogue partners including leaders of all ethnic groups, the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] and ethnic armed groups for the achievements we have attained thus far.
“However the present government has analysed the political reality of today, and realised that they have to solve the root problem to achieve a lasting peace between the different ethnic groups,” he said.
A preliminary round of talks between the government and KIO will recommence this week, as reported on Tuesday by DVB.
The president also touched upon the issue of media freedom in Burma. “The media in our country enjoys more freedom than its counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries,” he stated, before calling for responsibility on the part of the media industry itself.
“I would like to urge the media profession to enforce media ethics, avoid covering unfounded rumors and stop making personal attacks at a time the country is sowing the seeds of media freedom,” he said. “At a time when the entire country is engaging in historic state-building process, we all must work together to prevent such unethical personal attacks that rise to the level of abuse of recently acquired media freedoms.”
But Zaw Thet Htwe, editor and Press Council member, dis agreed. “Burma’s media freedom is still ranking lower than Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Cambodia or Philippines and we can see neither the government nor the parliament is willingly cooperating for the media freedom,” he told DVB. “So I disagree with the president saying Burma enjoys more media freedom than other Southeast Asian countries.”
Thein Sein concluded by expressing hope that his speech will clear all doubts people might have about the peace process, and said that he sincerely believes that if people come together in their will for peace, it will be achieved.