On November 20, 2013, President Elbegdorj visited the University of Yangon and delivered a talk on Mongolia’s reform experiences. The President said:”Our two countries have historical relations. Some 730 years ago, Khubilai Khaan’s grandson travelled to Myanmar. Mongolia and Myanmar established diplomatic relations in 1956.
The people of Mongolia have always been grateful to an honourable man of Myanmar, Mr. U Thant, who served as the UN Secretary General and played an instrumental role in Mongolia’s joining the UNO in 1961.
Since then, the two countries have been supporting each other at multilateral fora, however, no significant steps were undertaken to intensify our bilateral relations, and not many times did we meet in the past years. Still, why have we maintained those historical ties? We look alike, our cultures, arts, faith and religion have many features in common; this is why we have always been close to each other.
In the past few days I met with the state and government leaders of Myanmar. The Myanmar leaders expressed keen interest in study the experiences of Mongolia’s democratic transition and market economic reforms.
Mongolia is a country of 3 million people, of 1.5 million sq.km, with 50 million heads of livestock. Born and raised in an ordinary herders’ family, elected by the free choice of the Mongolian people, I am serving to the wellbeing and prosperity of my country. I was trusted this chance to serve my people’s freedom of choice, rights and interests. In the cold winter of 1989, together with my like-minded friends, we rallied in the streets of Ulaanbaatar uniting our voice for democratic transformations.
The reason why Mongolia’s path of democratic transition has been attracting global attention is that we achieved our goal by peace. Back then, many thought it was impossible to undertake democratic reforms in a country between two big socialist states. It is worth to mention that socialism was still intact in the then USSR. I would like to emphasize that we did conduct the democratic reform, and in a peaceful manner, without shattering a single window and shedding a single drop of blood. In our hands, we only had slogans. If we chose to resort to violence, the authorities would have responded fiercely. If we used arms, this would have been a pretext for the authorities to send tanks against us. We only wanted consensus. And eventually we achieved what we aimed, and conducted an open parliamentary election.
Mongolia attracts the interest of the international community for we conducted economic and political transition concurrently. I think Mongolia is the only Asian country to have conducted these reforms simultaneously, at the same time. The stereotype that concurrent economic and political reforms were impossible was firmly rooted back then, and we broke that stereotype.
Democracy and freedom are never complete. They must be taken care of every day, cleaned from dirt and stains just like a baby is cared and fed. Democracy flourishes in an environment where laws are applied equally. Many democracies failed because of corruption. In the old socialist system, the government served the interests of officials, of those in power. Today our government serves the interests and benefits of the people. Rights and liberties of the people, not of the officials, must be protected and guaranteed. We established an Anticorruption Agency and enacted anticorruption legislation. Such drastic measures are vital is we aspire sustained, stable and quality democracy.
I am convinced that women must be broadly engaged in politics and actively participate in a country’s decision making process. For the women are more responsible and fairer than men. I learned this from my mother. Every woman embodies humaneness, justice, ability to share and divide equally. Therefore, women in politics can exert more responsibility, more pro-activeness when it comes to sharing and delivering wealth to the people. When a tired and hungry child comes home, it is the mother who stands up to feed. Just like that, women’s participation in politics renders a human, a humane face to the government policies.
We must pay adequate attention to developing people-to-people relations between Mongolia and Myanmar. To support this policy, Mongolia and Myanmar have signed an intergovernmental agreement to waive visas for diplomatic and official passport holders of the two countries. In the old socialist system, ordinary people were not issues foreign passports. Only high ranking officials would carry foreign passports. We have done away with this system. Every citizen is given a foreign passport. And clearly, this would bolster people-to-people relations between nations.
I would like to say a few words about law enforcement. I will not cite examples of developed countries like America etc. In Mongolia, rule of law was the order of the day in the times of Chinggis Khaan: Ikh Zasag was the core law, which was upheld equally by all. Therefore, Mongolia, in addition to learning from best practices of other countries, also looks into her own heritages of rule of law. The fact that Myanmar is interested to learn from Mongolia’s experiences could really be an optimal solution. Why? Because Mongolia has advantages over other experiences for the path we have walked is still clear and visible. We have concrete tangible results, and our mistakes and errors are open for anyone to examine”.
After the lecture, President Elbegdorj answered the questions of the audience.