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The Speaker of the upper house of Myanmar’s parliament has opened the ANU Myanmar/Burma Update and expressed optimism about his country’s transformation to democratic rule.
His Excellency U Khin Aung Myint, however, said Myanmar continued to face challenges as it moves away from military rule and as its government establishes peace and reconciliation with ethnic minorities and armed ethnic groups.
Since the end of British colonial rule in 1948, Myanmar has been torn by almost 70 years of civil war, the longest in modern history, mainly with ethnic minorities fighting for greater autonomy or independence.
The Speaker said the two fundamental issues to be resolved in Myanmar were the relationship between the government and ethnic minorities, and the wider relationship between the people of Myanmar and the government, which has been influenced by Myanmar’s military since the early 1960s.
“The first issue caused the civil war. As long as this issue persists, it will be extremely difficult to end the civil war,” he said.
“The other issue is the result of long-term ruling of military-linked government, and it is the core of our democratic cause.
“Still, these are issues between brothers of the same blood, and therefore not deadly enmities. They are issues which can be resolved by friendly persuasion. But since these issues are long-festering ones, we cannot expect them to be solved quickly. We need time, and patience.
“The problem must be solved politically. This is a historical legacy, which cannot be avoided.
“I believe that solving these two issues is in itself today’s democratic transformation.”
He said for the transition to democracy to continue, free and fair elections must be held by the end of 2015, with a smooth transition to power for a newly-elected government.
ANU Chancellor, Professor Gareth Evans AC QC, said the Myanmar/Burma Update came at a crucial time for the country.
“The country is coming to the end of its first five-years with a new parliament, one that came into being after more than two decades of military rule,” he said.
“With general elections planned for November this year, the country’s people are genuinely excited for Myanmar’s future. The elections represent a new chapter in the progress of a country that has long been in turmoil.
“Yet there is uncertainty about what lies ahead, and still a huge array of challenges facing the country – political and constitutional, security, communal and social, and economic.”