Reformist leader says Myanmar needs transformation

YANGON Wed Dec 26, 2012 6:44am GMT

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YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's president called on Wednesday for a shake-up in the running of his fast-changing country, which he said was still mired in corruption and inefficiency and lagging behind its international peers.

Thein Sein, the unlikely reformer to emerge from within a military junta 19 months ago, called for big improvements across Myanmar's outdated bureaucracy to strengthen democracy and the economy, as foreign firms weigh whether to invest in the resource-rich country.

"When it comes to measuring good governance, our country still falls far short of the international standards," the former general told a meeting of cabinet ministers, regional leaders and civil service chiefs aired on television and radio.

"There is still a lack of the characteristics of clean government and good governance ... reforms are needed from the grassroots to the union (national) levels."

World leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama have praised Thein Sein for spearheading political, democratic and social reforms since the military stopped ruling, but his government faces problems in ridding Myanmar of its reputation for being an army-dominated state and a risky place to do business.

Western diplomats and analysts believe the central government has the political will to drive reforms but question the limits of its influence, pointing to several standoffs with parliament, sectarian violence in Rakhine state, heavy-handed police and the president's inability to halt fighting between the army and ethnic Kachin rebels as signs of problems ahead.

Another challenge was implementing a raft of policy changes complicated by an outdated and inefficient bureaucracy, which Thein Sein said would need to be vastly improved, from top to bottom.

"For the prevalence of democratic practice and for the development of the nation, it is necessary to transform the administration system, under which the people can participate and cooperate," he said.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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