My fellow citizens,
I wish to begin this month’s radio address with remarks about the Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation that was signed on Union Day this year.
Union Day is celebrated each year to commemorate the signing of the Pinlon Agreement by national leader General Aung San, and other political and ethnic leaders, a few months before the country achieved independence. The Agreement symbolizes the leaders’ desire for the establishment of a Union built on the spirit of ethnic and religious equality for all citizens.
This year’s Union Day celebrations were more remarkable and meaningful than before because the government, Parliament, the Election Commission, leaders of political parties, representatives of ethnic groups and Tatmadaw, and leaders of ethnic armed groups were able to sign the Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation. Ethnic leaders advised me that to prevent the public’s loss of confidence in the peace process at a time when the complexities of the peace process are being resolved, leaders involved in the peace process would need to give a firm commitment to the process. After giving the ethnic leaders’ advice careful consideration, I undertook to jointly work towards achieving this Deed of Commitment. This Deed of Commitment is a firm pledge by leaders involved in the peace process, in the spirit of responsible action, transparency and accountability, on completing the important steps of concluding the nationwide ceasefire agreement, drafting a political dialogue framework, and promptly commencing political dialogue during 2015.
I signed the Deed not because the conditions were perfect, but because I want to take any and every opportunity I can to encourage the process, build trust, and demonstrate clearly that my government truly committed to a negotiated end to the armed violence that has plagued our country.
To further these efforts, the Union Peace Working Committee and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team are planning to meet again in the middle of March.
The nation also celebrated several ethnic national days in February. The holding of dignified celebrations to showcase ethnic customs and distinctive symbols is one of the positive outcomes of the reform process.
I would now like to explain the situation in the Kokang Self-Administration Region. Tatmadaw and security forces had to quickly respond and defend against violent attempts to undermine national sovereignty, public safety, property, and national unity.
The government is giving priority to protecting lives and property in the fighting zone. I would like to especially recognize the assistance provided to affected local residents by citizens and civil organizations. I am also heartened to see the outpouring of public compassion, support, and encouragement to the soldiers risking their lives in the line of duty. Tatmadaw soldiers are dutifully defending our nation, and they have my utmost respect. I also applaud the Myanmar Red Cross Society for their humanitarian efforts.
Myanmar and the People’s Republic of China have held discussions regarding the clashes in the Kokang Region. The two nations have already agreed to cooperate in accordance with the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. These include recognizing our long –standing friendly relations, mutual respect, and the understanding that one nation will not allow the use of its territory to damage the interests of the other nation. I stress here that I will not tolerate any country or group infringing on the sovereignty of Myanmar. The situation in the Kokang Region is being contained and efforts are underway to restore normalcy.
Turning now to education, reform of the education system is one of the most important tasks of my government’s all-sector reforms. It is to be expected that attempts to fix a system that has deteriorated over the years would face difficulties and challenges. The Ministry of Education consulted with student groups and civil society, and facilitated the amending of the National Education Law. Parliament is now considering these changes.
I urge all the groups involved to act with vision, and through dialogue to nurture an education system that will improve the lives of citizens, strengthen democratic reforms, and build an open and peaceful society.
Setting a minimum wage is a key aspect of workers’ rights in Myanmar, and the government is working with workers’ organizations, and businesses in this effort. The process will involve careful analysis, consultations, and systematic implementation to ensure a minimum wage that is fair for all concerned. I urge everyone involved in the process to be inclusive, pragmatic and act with patience. Most importantly, direct confrontation and use of force must be avoided. During the past four years, there have been many examples of addressing labor issues peacefully through negotiations. This must continue, and the government is facilitating negotiations between businesses and workers to resolve disagreements that currently exist.
I would now like to address questions the public has concerning temporary identification cards, also known as White Cards. Some White Cards have been issued temporarily during the citizenship verification process as a form of identification because there have been some difficulties verifying the citizenship of the cardholders. The citizenship verification process is ongoing. As officially announced earlier, White Cards will expire at the end of March. Various government departments will ensure that the legitimate rights of the cardholders are maintained during the citizenship verification process.
When my government took office, we decided to launch reforms based on citizens’ desire for these reforms. First, we initiated liberalization. We carefully considered the roles of youth – the future generation of leaders – because we acknowledge their roles in the history of our nation. Therefore, instead of ignoring youths during this reform process, we have supported their participation and encouraged youth-led activities. In this more liberalized environment, youths are free to do what they believe in. Although youths were once isolated from the rest of the world due to conditions at that time, reforms currently underway are allowing them to freely interact with the wider world in an unprecedented manner. These connections are promoting new concepts, perspectives and knowledge, and are contributing to the development of a future generation of leaders. Youths should firmly grasp the opportunities created by the liberalization and equip themselves with these new skills to ensure our society develops from generation to generation.
This February was also noteworthy because it marked the 100th anniversary of national leader General Aung San’s birth. I was proud of our remembrance, and praise of him and his achievements. At the same time, we should not be content with just praising his speeches, leadership and patriotism. Each of us must act on the messages of his speeches and strive for the democracy, equality, and Union he envisioned. Only then will we have served our duty as citizens and repaid our debts to General Aung San. I encourage today’s youth to strive to become leaders who will be respected, and emulated one hundred years from now, just as General Aung San is respected and emulated today.
I am working hard to achieve successful outcomes for the peace process, democratic reforms, and livelihoods. We are now at an important period in time that will decide if these efforts will succeed. Success in one area will energize in other areas. Therefore I urge political leaders, and each and every citizen to work together to achieve our common goals. In particular, the first all-inclusive elections to be contested since independence will be held in November. It is to be expected that political parties will hotly contest this democratic exercise. In doing so to achieve their political goals, I strongly urge the contestants to show mutual respect, understanding and magnanimity.
I would like to conclude by reaffirming my commitment to achieving peace, promoting economic development and building a better future for future generations.
I wish you all good health and happiness.