Burma's president renews call for democracy, peace with rebels

Burma's Thein Sein marked his first year in office Thursday with a call to renew democratic reforms, make peace with ethnic minorities and increase foreign investment.

In a speech to parliament in the capital Naypyitaw, Thein Sein said his government has been working hard to reform the political process.

He said that has included two amnesties of political prisoners, paving the way for "all-inclusive" democratic elections.

Burma will hold a by-election on April 1, in which opposition National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be allowed to participate as a candidate.

The country has undergone dizzying political change since Thein Sein took office in March 2011.

The president denied reports that the changes have taken place amid fierce infighting within his military-backed government.

"Our government has never been divided between hardliners and softliners, as many people say at present," Thein Sein said. "We are all working together to implement our government’s policy."

He said he hoped to implement a comprehensive peace with ethnic minority insurgents and make it possible for young guerrilla fighters to "swap their weapons for laptop computers."

"I urge the international community to support us," Thein Sein said. "If you invest one dollar for business here, it means one dollar of assistance to the Myanmar people."
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