09/28/2012, 00.00
MYANMAR - UNITED NATIONS

United Nations: Thein Sein to build a "harmonious society" with Aung San Suu Kyi

President acknowledges "crucial" role played by opposition leader, and reiterates the value of "diversity" as part of the country's rich heritage. Stability, the rule of law and economic growth are his main goals. GDP should reach 7.7 per cent by 2015. An independent, multi-faith commission should investigate anti-Rohingya violence.

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Myanmar's reforms are "irreversible" and the country's ethnic conflicts, including the Muslim Rohingya issue, will be resolved according to "international norms," President Thein Sein told the 67th UN General Assembly in an address on Thursday. The 15-minute speech, which was carried live on Burmese TV, was his first public appearance in the United States. In it, he talked about the economy, Aung San Suu Kyi's "crucial" role, and the value of his nation's diversity.

From the podium of the General Assembly, Thein Sein listed a number of reforms his government had undertaken, including the granting of amnesties to prisoners, the convening of credible 2012 by-elections, the abolition of media censorship and the increased participation of the Burmese people in the country's political process. For Burmese dissidents and critics, such changes remain insufficient because they are only partial.

Taking his cue from Chinese President Hu Jintao, Thein said that his government wants "establish a harmonious society." To reach that goal, the country needs stability, the rule of law and economic growth, aiming for a 7.7 per cent GDP growth by the end of 2015, with a focus on boosting agricultural production.

However, none of this would have been possible without the "crucial" role of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to whom he referred as a Nobel Prize winner.

In 1991, Suu Kyi won in fact the Nobel Peace Prize and spent 15 of the subsequent 21 years under house arrest by the same military government of which Thein was prime minister.

"She's been a good colleague," the president said, speaking at the Asia Society in New York. "I believe she will continue to work with us to complete all the things we need to achieve in the country."

In addition to being the first Burmese political leader to recognise Suu Kyi's role at an international forum, President Thein also said that all inhabitants of Burma, regardless of race, religion and gender, have the same rights.

Likewise, he announced that that a commission would be set up with Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Hindu representatives to look into anti- Rohingya violence.

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