March 11 - 17, 2013
By Claire Rosemberg
BRUSSELS – U Thein Sein, on thefirst visit to Brussels by a Myanmarpresident, received new pledges of EU economic assistance coupledwith calls to protect his country’sethnic minorities on March 5.The Myanmar leader, setting outon the fourth leg of an historic 10-day tour of Europe, met successivelywith European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, EU presidentHerman Van Rompuy, and foreignpolicy chief Catherine Ashton.“You have in the EuropeanUnion a committed and long termpartner for the historic journeythat Myanmar and its people havestarted,” Van Rompuy told U TheinSein, who was warmly welcomedfor his ground-breaking reforms inMyanmar.Since the former premier tookover the presidency in March 2011,thousands of political prisoners havebeen released and elections held,including the election to parliamentof long-detained opposition leaderDaw Aung San Suu Kyi.“The EU and Myanmar areturning a page in their relationship,”said Barroso. “More dialogue, moreand better aid, more trade andinvestment.”While EU development aid hasmore than doubled to about 150million euros (US$195 million) for2012-13, Brussels said it was nowready to explore the feasibility of abilateral investment agreement. Ashton, flanked by commissionerfor industry Antonio Tajani, willvisit Myanmar later this year tolook at further economic support.The EU has also offered toreinstate a preferential tariffs dealwith Myanmar.U Thein Sein, however, calledon the EU to once and for all liftsanctions against Myanmar, saying“we are one of the poorest countriesin the world”.Though Myanmar had enacteda new foreign investment law toattract capital to exploit its vastmineral resources “it is still a greathindrance that sanctions exist”,U Thein Sein said after meetingEuropean Parliament presidentMartin Schulz.The EU in April rewardedMyanmar’s historic changes bysuspending for one year a wide rangeof trade, economic and individualsanctions while warning it would“monitor closely the situation on theground, keep its measures underconstant review”. And Brussels on March 5 madeclear it was monitoring minorityrights, notably the conflict inthe northern state of Kachin,and communal Buddhist-Muslimunrest in Rakhine State – wherethe bloc has provided some 5.5million euros ($7.15 million) to helpthe internally displaced from bothcommunities.“Important challenges remain.In particular, on the need for acomprehensive peace settlement inethnic areas,” Van Rompuy said.Speaking through an interpreter,U Thein Sein said his governmenthad been able “to reduce a culture of fear” and vowed to continue to workto strengthen democracy. “You havemy promise we will continue on thispath,” he stated.He also said his government hadworked to end armed conflicts thathad lasted more than 60 years byengaging with 11 armed groupsfighting in the field when it tookoffice.“We cannot say we have a lastingpeace because we have a ceasefire,we have to continue the dialogue,”he said.But groups such as HumanRights Watch urged leaders inBrussels to press the head of state to honour pledges on rights,including a promise to allow the UNCommissioner for Human Rights toset up an office in Myanmar.There was deadly sectarianviolence against ethnic RohingyaMuslims and rights abuses bysecurity forces in ethnic conflictareas, particularly in Kachin Statesince the resumption of fighting in2011 against separatists.The minority, numbering about800,000, has been described by theUnited Nations as one of the mostpersecuted minorities on the planet,with thousands seeking refuge inneighbouring countries as boatpeople.“Any realistic analysis of thecurrent situation on the groundin Burma would conclude muchmore needs to be done to entrenchreforms,” said the group’s EUdirector Lotte Leicht.U Thein Sein, who has alreadyvisited Norway, Finland and Austria, will end his 10-day trip inItaly.
President offered fresh EU help
By Win Ko Ko Latt
BOWING to the constitution,President U Thein Sein is tohand over leadership of hisparty, the majority UnionSolidarity and DevelopmentParty, to its current vicechairman and Speaker of Pyithu Hluttaw, Thura UShwe Mann. No date has yetbeen set for the handover.“The president will handover the chairmanship of theparty to U Shwe Mann,” saidThura U Aung Ko, a memberof the central committee of USDP. A request from
The Myanmar Times
for furtherinformation from presidentialspokesman U Ye Htut has sofar received no response.Thura U Aung Ko saidthe election of President UThein Sein as party chair inOctober 2012 had met withcriticism on the grounds thatit appeared to infringe theconstitution.“The president chairsUSDP, but doesn’t take partin party activities becausethe constitution states thatthe president shall not doso. Since the chairman hasto engage in party activities,the president will give up thechair at an appropriate time,”he added.U Win Myint, PyithuHluttaw representative forPathein township, has askedthe hluttaw for a definitionof the terms used in theconstitution. But MinisterU Soe Maung from thePresident’s Office said thedefinition had to come fromthe constitutional tribunal.Speaker Thura U ShweMann has said he will askthe tribunal for a definitiononce it is formed.“Under the constitution,political party members shallnot take part in their partyactivities while performingduties at the union level.But no provision requiresresignation from the party,”said U Htay Oo, a USD vicechairman. –
Translated byThiri Min Htun
President tohand overUSDP chairin future
By Yu Yu Maw
DEPARTURE forms forpeople leaving the countrycould be on the way out. TheMinistry of Immigrationand Population ispreparing to cancel theso-called D-form, said animmigration departmentsource at YangonInternational Airport onMarch 6.“The minister is raisingthis proposal in the hluttaw. As yet we have no cleardecision or instruction tocancel the departure form,”the source said.Outward bound travellerU Nyi Myint said: “This isvery good news. You can’tleave the country unlessyou present a departureform at the immigrationdesk at the airport. I thinkthis is an unnecessarystep.”“Applying for a D-formevery time you leave thecountry is a waste of time.” Anyone wishing to leavethe country has to depositK200 with MyanmarEconomic Bank for aD-form, and fill out theform on the official websitewith bank code number. An approval letter takes aweek to 10 days dependingon the connection, saidDaw Hla Dar Li Khin of Tour De Travel company.Internet cafés can alsoprovide the form, for K1000to K2000.
Ministry signals theend of departure forms
President U Thein Sein with his Austriancounterpart, Heinz Fischer, during aceremony in Vienna on March 4.