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CNBC Exclusive: Myanmar President Confident About Future of Reform

Michael Kearns, Head of News and Programming, Asia Pacific
Thursday, 6 Jun 2013 | 3:31 AM ET
Myanmar President: Pace of Current Reforms to Continue
CNBC's Martin Soong sat down with Thein Sein, the President of Myanmar and asked him about the upcoming national elections and the progress of economic development.

Myanmar President Thein Sein said he has little doubt that the sweeping changes he has undertaken in the past two years will continue to grow in the future, regardless of who is in power.

"We can say the reforms have accelerated and gained momentum," the president said Thursday in an exclusive interview with CNBC at his presidential palace in the administrative capital, Naypyitaw. "We only have three years left in our mandate, but I firmly believe the incoming government will maintain the reforms we have gained so far."

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CNBC's Martin Soong speaks to Myanmar President Thein Sein
CNBC
CNBC's Martin Soong speaks to Myanmar President Thein Sein

Under Thein Sein, a former military general, Myanmar has undergone a dramatic transition from a reclusive, repressive, internationally-scorned nation, to one that is rapidly opening up politically and economically. It has become one of the hottest emerging-market investment stories in the world. The president says the changes are simply fulfilling the wishes of his people.

"The people of Myanmar want to see peace and stability and an end to around 60 years of conflict," he said. "They want to see economic prosperity and economic development in our country."

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While openly admitting his desire to step aside, Thein Sein entertained the notion that when the next election is held in 2015, he may in fact be compelled to campaign once again for the country's highest office.

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"I am nearly 70 years old, and because of my age and my health, I wish to retire," he said. "But considering the wishes of the people, I'd have to consider whether to stand in the next election or not."

Long-time democracy leader and now opposition leader in the parliament, Aung San Suu Kyi, is currently prevented from running for president because of a provision in the constitution that bars those who have married foreign spouses.

Suu Kyi was married to a British citizen, Michael Aris, who died of cancer in 1999. It is widely believed that if she were allowed to run through a change in the constitution, she would become president. If that were to happen, Thein Sein said he has a simple piece of advice for her.

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"Currently, the reforms I am undertaking are the wishes of the people," he said. "My only advice to her is to continue fulfilling the wishes and desires of the people."

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