Myanmar has entered the most important period in its history, President U Thein Sein has said in a speech to parliament in which he backed constitutional reform and the democratisation of the military.

The speech to the PyidaungsuHluttaw on March 26 came ahead of the third anniversary of his five-year term as President, on March 30.

President U Thein Sein attributed the political transformation underway in the country to the 2008 Constitution and said it must be amended to make it more democratic.

He urged those involved in constitutional reform to demonstrate the far-sightedness and wisdom needed “to move forward smoothly” and leave a legacy from which the younger generation would benefit.

Stressing the need for a strong Tatmadawto ensure the security and defence of the nation, the President said the armed forces must become involved in democratisation as the transition to democracy continues.

The Tatmadaw must continue to be involved in solving political problems through political means, he said, but added that: “The role of the Tatmadaw should be reduced in proportion to the progress achieved in peace building, along with experience gained in democratic practices.”

Referring to the negotiations taking place between the government and armed ethnic groups on a national ceasefire agreement, President U Thein Sein said achieving internal peace would require efforts to try and fulfil the rights of the states and ethnic nationals.

“The task of constitutional reform is a great task and needs a thorough study of its essence and objectives,” the President said. Constitutional reform, he said, must be prescribed in Article 12 of the constitution, which refers to the sharing of power between the Union Parliament and those of the regions and states.

“The ethnic nationals involved in the peace process, the forces outside the hluttaw, the demands made in all-inclusive discussions, must all be taken into consideration,” the President said.

On the transition process, he said it was necessary to consider not only the present situation, but also the future impact of reform and its consequences.

“For stability, peace and the development of the country, our government has worked in cooperation with legislative bodies and judicial bodies; there were successes and failures … but we pledge to continue to work hard to achieve the best results,” he said.

The President said Myanmar was once regarded by the international community as a totalitarian state but had become a country ruled in accordance with a constitution to make it a better place in which to live.

“Now we are in the best and most important period in history: we must value it,” he said.

“It is an opportune moment for all of us to work in unity to build the country.

“We must be careful to maintain the proper pace in reform and democratisation; we must have checks and balances in the democratic way.

“We must all take responsibility not to destroy the dream and the expectations of all the people of Myanmar.

“Let us continue to work so that we will be recorded by history as those who carried out democratisation and transformation smoothly and peacefully.”