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Myanmar trade leader cites optimism

Posted by pakin On November - 12 - 2015

A REPRESENTATIVE of Myan-mar’s private sector has welcomed the National League for Democracy’s apparent victory in the country’s election, but warned that changes should be executed step by step to ensure a smooth political transition and further economic development. In an exclusive interview with The Nation a day after the historic election, Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, repeatedly exclaimed: “The optimism is there!”

Referring to the high voter turnout and the opposition party’s landslide win, he said the people had spoken. “It is their voice. Everyone expects changes.”

The road ahead is cleared for the NLD to form the government, he added. He does not expect the military to stand in the way of people’s desires, as senior generals are educated and have learned lessons.

“The legacy of the military is not good and they must reclaim professionalism.

“It is natural for the strong to dominate the weak. But even if they have power, they should not exercise it irresponsibly without thinking about their kin and relatives. Where will they stand?” he said.

“It is natural for the strong to dominate the weak. But even if they have power, they should not exercise it irresponsibly without thinking about their kin and relatives. Where will they stand?” he said.

Noting that its members are well trained and disciplined, he said the army could play a professional role if national budgets are sufficiently allocated.

With about 400,000 men in service, under good leadership Myanmar’s army can also contribute to regional stability.

“The Lady speaks the same language. She understands the army’s role and importance,” he said, referring to NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Eventual-ly, he expects the military seats in parliament to be gradually reduced.

For now, the challenge is for the winners, he said. They should be humble and treat their adversaries properly. After toppling the incumbent government, the NLD also needs to be careful charting its policies.

“The boat may capsize if we change course abruptly. The party that topples an incumbent government needs to do things step by step to change the country,” Maung Maung Lay said.

The other challenge concerns the huge public expectations.

“The huge task for those who have won is to deliver [practical results], not only words. If they cannot deliver, they will be in real trouble,” he said, noting that their performance would determine their popularity in later days.

Expectations are high that the country’s 135 ethnic groups will be reunited through a reconciliation process, that the rule of law is restored, and that human-rights infringements are addressed, he said.

The nationwide ceasefire agreement has been delayed because of a lack of trust.

“There are many races in the United States but it can be powerful. Myanmar can be more powerful if the government has wisdom and is prudent,” he said.

Maung Maung Lay said he was saddened that Myanmar had been pulled backwards by division. Decades ago, the country was so prosperous that he thought it would be the key member of Asean. But under military rule, from being a model of Asian countries, Myanmar became a pariah state, “a leper” in the region.

“We are one nation. Together, we [will] grow and we can regain the past glory,” he said.

Sunday’s election marked a good start for Myanmar as well as Asean, Surin Pitsuwan, the bloc’s former secretary-general, said in Thailand yesterday at a seminar on the prospects for the Thai economy next year.

He expects the Myanmar economy will continue to grow and it will become one of the strongest and most attractive investment destinations among foreigners.

“Many foreign countries will look at expanding their trade and investment in Myanmar,” he said.

As its neighbour, Thailand should take this opportunity to outline clear strategies to penetrate the market, he said.

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