Burma president urges country to learn from instability

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BURMA’S president has warned that his country needs to learn from the violence and instability that has hit the Asian nation over the last two years if it is to overcome the challenge of democratisation.

Thein Sein spoke in a radio broadcast yesterday to mark the start a day earlier of a traditional New Year holiday that is celebrated by people across South-east Asia with friendly water fights.

Thein Sein, a former general, took office two years ago after Burma’s long-ruling junta stepped down. He has since led an unprecedented transition toward democratic rule, releasing political prisoners, easing censorship and signing ceasefire deals with all but one of the nation’s rebel groups.

But the country has also been plagued by a war with Kachin rebels in the north, sectarian violence in western Rakhine state, and anti-Muslim pogroms in central Burma last month that left 43 dead in the city of Meikhtila and turned whole Muslim districts to ashen ruins.

“We have achieved successes that we had not hoped for and also experienced shocking and saddening events we had not expected,” Thein Sein said. But “during this long road toward democracy, we have to sustain our successes and take lessons from the losses, and be prepared to face the challenges ahead.”