Burmese President Thein Sein launched a campaign Wednesday for an end to government corruption and inefficiency as part of a key pillar of his reform plan for the formerly military-ruled country.
The move was welcomed by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which said that eradicating decades of graft in the civil service will benefit the public.
Addressing Burma’s cabinet and other government figures in a nationally televised speech, Thein Sein said that good governance is “still very weak in Myanmar [Burma] and falls short of international norms.”
“Departments at various levels of administration have failed to listen to the voices of the people and lack transparency,” the Burmese president said.
“I would like to stress that bribery and corruption must be effectively prevented,” he added.
“I would like to urge the people to participate in maintaining national morality.”
Thein Sein, a former military general, has spearheaded many long-hoped-for reforms in Burma since taking office in March 2011 after landmark elections the year before.
Reforms already undertaken by Burma’s new and nominally civilian government include the release of large numbers of political prisoners, the easing of restrictions on assembly and the press, and renewed attempts at dialogue with armed ethnic minority groups.
The improvement of governance in Burma is now a necessary “third step” in the country’s ongoing reforms following earlier efforts at political and economic reform, Thein Sein said.
In an interview with RFA’s Burmese service, senior NLD official and former political prisoner Nine Nine hailed the president’s speech, calling it a sign of “goodwill.”
“Government authorities have forgotten that they serve the public, and that kind of attitude should be changed,” he said.
“The president’s speech seems to indicate that he understands this situation, and we welcome this.”
Rules in place
Civil servants “won’t be easily corrupted” if they obey the rules and regulations already in place in their departments, Nine Nine said, adding that the Burmese people should understand that bureaucrats don’t hold “absolute power” over their lives.
Authorities at the township level are especially responsible for listening to and solving the people’s problems, he said.
And though Burma’s political bureaucracy allows for criticisms as it moves up from the township level to provincial and district levels, “we need skillful government servants as managers and administrators,” he said.
Burma’s people cannot participate effectively in every level of government, though, and should be able to select capable representatives, Nine Nine said.
In a November visit to Burma, U.S. President Barack Obama praised Thein Sein for embracing political reforms.
“The process of reform that he is taking is one that will move this country forward,” he said.
Reported by Win Naing for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.