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President vows 'second phase' of reform

Promises to improve education, per capita income and electricity access

  • ucanews.com reporter, Bangkok
  • Myanmar
  • June 20, 2012
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President Thein Sein yesterday announced a “second phase” of much-commended reforms, the same day opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi celebrated her 67th birthday with a return to the English city of Oxford, her former home.

In a speech filled with references to Myanmar trying to catch up with the rest of the region, Thein Sein outlined plans to overhaul education, healthcare and the economy with the aim of tripling per capita income to about US4,000 per year, a goal he said depended on foreign aid and investment.

“Our government is responsible for bringing about national development and improving living conditions of the people,” he said in a televised address from the capital Naypyidaw.

Among the range of ambitious projects Thein Sein said he hoped to implement by early 2016, shortly after Myanmar’s next general election, were plans to offer 75 percent of the population electricity.

Up to US$20 billion in aid and private sector investment over the next decade would be required to reach this target, he added.

Myanmar remains one of the least electrified countries in Asia with about three-quarters of its 60 million people living without access to power, according to UN data.

Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi continued her tour of Europe yesterday, stopping off in Oxford where she lived prior to joining Myanmar’s democratic movement in 1988.

Asked whether she was prepared to take over from Thein Sein when the two contest what is expected to be a critical election at the end of 2015, Suu Kyi announced she was ready to be the leader of Myanmar’s people “if I can lead them in the right way,” the BBC quoted her as saying.

Although the country’s 2008 constitution appears to bar Myanmar citizens married to foreigners from running for the highest office, confusion remains as to whether her widow status following the death of her English husband Michael Aris in 1999 means she is definitively excluded.

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