MANDALAY — President Thein Sein has warned that Burma faces the risk of unrest as it prepares to amend its military-drafted Constitution and conduct free and fair elections.
Landmark elections in 2015 will see Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party go up against the popular opposition of Aung San Suu Kyi. A parliamentary committee is currently discussing amendments to the 2008 charter, with an alliance of opposition groups, including Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), holding public rallies around the country calling for the military’s role in Burmese politics to be reduced.
Speaking at a literacy event in Mandalay on Thursday, Thein Sein stressed that both upcoming challenges were internal Burmese affairs.
“We will have to work within the boundary of law to not affect the sovereignty of the country. Nobody wants unrest based on these two matters,” he said.
“If there’s unrest, it will affect the country. Every citizen—monks and everyone—should take examples from countries around the world that have seen unrest, and should protect the country’s stability.”
He also urged citizens to participate in the country’s democratic development. Thein Sein came to power in 2011, ushering in a program of political and economic reforms that have seen Burma’s relations with the West improve and investment from overseas increase.
The president was speaking at a ceremony to honor literacy campaigners and students in Mandalay Division. In a 45-day campaign across the division, volunteers reached more than 4,000 elderly learners.
During the speech, Thein Sein stressed the importance of literacy in building a democratic country.
Thein Sein’s Mandalay visit came just three days ahead of a public meeting on Constitutional reform to be held in Mandalay on Sunday. Suu Kyi is set to speak at the rally organized by the NLD and the former students’ movement 88 Generation Peace and Open Society.
Thein Sein’s visit was criticized as a cynical exercise to win praise for the current government and undermine the campaign for significant changes to the Constitution.
“His trip before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit is not honest as he is airing propaganda speech regarding the amendment of the Constitution,” said Mya Aung, a local NLD supporter.
“The same thing happened in 2012 before the by-elections, where Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also planned to come to Mandalay.”