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Myanmar leader holds landmark press briefing

By Phyo Wai Lin and Katie Hunt for CNN
updated 4:59 AM EDT, Mon October 22, 2012
Myanmar President Thein Sein answers reporters' questions during his first news conference since taking power in March 2011.
Myanmar President Thein Sein answers reporters' questions during his first news conference since taking power in March 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Myanmar's leader holds first press conference after years of secrecy
  • Answers dozens of questions but reveals little about controversial topics
  • Myanmar may send military officers to U.S. for technical training
  • Thein Sein doesn't rule out seeking another term in office

(CNN) -- Myanmar's leader has held his first press conference since taking power in 2011, in a show of openness for the once secretive and repressive regime.

President Thein Sein fielded around 30 questions from 130 local and foreign reporters on an array of topics. The news conference, which took place at his residence on Sunday, ran over its scheduled two-hour time slot.

The reform-minded president told reporters that he felt more comfortable talking to the press after being interviewed many times during his trip to the United States last month.

However, the 67-year-old former general was careful not to reveal too much and gave few details on controversial issues.

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Thein Sein, who took office in March 2011 after the country's military junta eased their grip on power, did not rule out seeking a second term in office at elections due to take place in 2015.

"To date, according to my health condition and age, I have decided I will perform for one term," he said.

"But I will think about what it is my country and people desire for me."

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His administration has embarked on wide-ranging economic and political reforms following decades of military rule.

The administration has released hundreds of political prisoners and allowed democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi to take part in elections for the national parliament, which she subsequently won.

At the news conference, Thein Sein said that Myanmar had no plans to co-operate with the U.S. military following reports that the country may be invited as an observer to annual "Cobra Gold" U.S.-Thai military exercises next year.

"We didn't receive any official invitation for Cobra Gold till now. So we have no plan yet to cooperate or go for observation," he said.

However, Thein Sein said that that the country's military, long criticized for human rights abuses, was considering sending officers to the United States for technical training.

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The president also said the country's much-anticipated foreign investment law would be enacted "very soon",

The regime hopes to attract overseas businesses to boost its struggling economy but the bill has been delayed amid divisions over to what extent the country should be opened up to foreign investors.

Despite the considerable progress in Myanmar, concerns remain whether the military establishment, which retains control of parliament, is committed to lasting change.

The current administration has also been accused by rights activists of a harsh crackdown on the Rohingya, a stateless ethnic Muslim minority, amid violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the country's Rakhine state on the border with Bangladesh.

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