NAYPYIDAW – Myanmar President Thein Sein said Sunday he had overcome his fear of the media after a recent grilling on the BBC’s “Hardtalk” show that he admitted was tougher than expected.
“His questions were really difficult. I hadn’t heard about Hardtalk,” the former general told reporters in the capital Naypyidaw when asked about his interview by the BBC’s Stephen Sackur during a landmark US visit last month.
He admitted that in the past government figures had been afraid of the press, adding: “But now I encourage them not to be afraid of the media as I’m not afraid.
“As I’ve even been on Hardtalk, I’m not afraid of the others,” he told reporters in his first domestic press conference since taking office 18 months ago.
Thein Sein sidestepped questions from Sackur about whether he would apologise to former political prisoners including Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and over whether he would express regret for the regime’s past repression.
The reformist leader has won international plaudits — and the suspension or lifting of most Western sanctions — for the fast pace of change in Myanmar since he took the helm of a quasi-civilian government last year.
The regime has also loosened its grip on domestic media and allowed journalists into the country to report on the changes, although many government ministers remain reluctant to speak to the foreign press.