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Myanmar leader defends reform pace, army role

Myanmar leader defends reform pace, army role
Thein Sein, a former general who has run Myanmar since 2011 when the junta ceded power to a quasi-civilian government after decades of brutal rule, insisted his country was on the path towards genuine democracy.

“Our reform process is going step by step. There is no backsliding. We are now on the track towards democracy, but going at a steady pace,” he said in a BBC interview broadcast today. He also said the army needed to be “involved in national politics” and refused to commit himself to any specific timetable on when that political role might be reduced.

Under the country’s constitution, the armed forces still retain a quarter of the seats in parliament and some key cabinet posts, giving the country’s generals an effective veto on policy.

“It would be rather difficult to give a timeframe for reducing this role,” Thein Sein said.

“But I can assure you that as we mature in democracy in our country the role of the military in parliament will reduce gradually,” he added.

His comments come ahead of crucial polls slated for November, which are being closely watched as a litmus test for whether the nation’s leaders have truly turned their backs their authoritarian past.

The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), led by veteran democracy campaigner Aung San Su Kyi, has called on the military to reduce their powerful hold over Myanmar’s politics.

Early in his tenure Thein Sein oversaw major reforms that have lured foreign investment back into the isolated nation. But some observers fear his initial enthusiasm has stalled.

The NLD is expected to win this years elections if polls are free and fair.

But Suu Kyi cannot stand for the presidency because a clause in the constitution bans those with a foreign spouse or children. Her two sons are British, as was her late husband.
Agencies

Agencies

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