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To Burma from Nepal

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
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Carter ended his four-day-visit to Nepal on Monday to fly on to Rangoon, and said Burma could learn from Nepal during its transition to democracy.

Former US President Jimmy Carter arrived in Burma on the first anniversary of by-elections in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party won nearly all the seats it contested. Monday also saw further cautious moves towards democracy by the state with the ban lifted on private media. However, Burma’s transition has been marred by religious riots and no let up in the ethnic insurgencies in the north.

Carter 1

Former US president Carter holds a press conference in Kathmandu. Photo: Bhrikuti Rai.

“Perhaps the most important lesson that Myanmar (Burma) can learn from Nepal’s example is the progress it has made in eliminating discrimination against minority groups. Every citizen should be guaranteed his or her right to vote, regardless of ethnicity,” he said, in a response to a question from the Nepali Times.

Carter added that he would meet both President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi during his trip to Burma and they will discuss the 2015 general election. Representatives from the Carter Center are expected to attend as international observers in the run-up to the elections, as well as during the elections itself and after the results are known.

The ethnic conflict in Myanmar has the unwelcome distinction of being the longest running in the world, as well as one of the bloodiest. Beginning shortly after Burma gained independence from the British in 1948, the ethnic minority groups of the Karen, the Shan, and the Rohingya continue to wage armed conflict against the majority-Burmese authorities as of 2013.

The government of Myanmar recently took the first steps of transitioning towards a democracy in 2008, holding elections in 2010. Civil rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been held under house arrest for 15 years, was released in that same year. Despite these gains, it remains to be seen if Myanmar can hold free and fair elections which do not disenfranchise any ethnic minority groups in 2015, as hoped for by the Carter Center.

Sulaiman Daud

President Carter answers questions in Kathmandu

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