2016-03-31 12:45:00

Historic day for Myanmar but many challenges ahead

(Vatican Radio)  Myanmar (also known as Burma) turned a new page in its gradual transition to democracy when the nation’s new civilian president, Htin Kyaw, was sworn in on Wednesday after decades of military rule.

Kyaw is a close ally of Aung San Suu Kyi whose National League for Democracy party scored a landslide victory in last November’s elections. She is barred by the constitution from becoming president but has said she will run the government from behind the scenes.

Benedict Rogers is an expert on Myanmar who works for the rights group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and has recently returned from a visit to the nation. He was interviewed by Susy Hodges.

Listen to the interview with Benedict Rogers of Christian Solidarity Worldwide:

Rogers agreed with those describing the swearing-in of the new president as “an historic moment” but said the government will face “a lot of challenges ahead” because of the considerable power and influence still retained by the military.

Myanmar’s present constitution reserves 25 percent of the seats in parliament for military officers, guaranteeing that no government can amend the constitution without the army’s approval. Rogers also pointed out that the military “still controls the key ministries” of Defence, Home Affairs and Border Affairs which he said will also “constrain” the new government’s powers.   

Asked about the challenges facing Myanmar’s first civilian government after 54 years of direct and indirect military rule, Rogers noted that in addition to the constraints posed by the nation’s still incomplete democracy, Myanmar faces “huge problems” such as “the ongoing ethnic conflicts, religious intolerance, poverty and a host of other challenges.”

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