Hillary’s Burma Visit
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INTERVIEW

Hillary’s Burma Visit


By THE IRRAWADDY Saturday, November 19, 2011


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And I think that they agreed that the timing and sequence of developments from this point forward is important.  They discussed Aung San Suu Kyi's thinking about the importance, as I've said, of reconciliation and putting an end to violence in the ethnic areas.  And I think they both expressed a hope someday to be able to meet in person.

Senior US administration official:  They did, yes.

Senior US administration official:  Thanks, and good to see you all this afternoon.  Let me just give you a sense of how this has played out.  As you know, in 2009, when the administration came into office, President Obama asked the Secretary of State to conduct a full review of our policy towards Burma.  And after a period of close consultation -- we began a consequential with key stakeholders on Capitol Hill, in the region -- Southeast Asia, with China, Northeast Asian friends -- and all of our interlocutors in Europe.  I think we came to the conclusion that the policy of sanctions only was not addressing our strategic interests and so we began a process of attempting, while keeping our sanctions in place, to promote a systematic dialogue with both elements of the regime and also Aung San Suu Kyi.

We've had a series of visits, then, in 2009 and 2010.  We first started to see real progress, however, late this summer, after a period in which contested elections led to a new leadership in Nay Pyi Taw.  Thein Sein is the current President of the country, formerly was the prime minister, and in a very substantial set of steps over the course of the last three months has taken a number of specific things that we had asked them to do over the course of the last several months.  I'll just give you what some of those things were.

We asked that the government begin a systematic dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi.  And in fact, what we have seen is a very deep set of consultations emerge between her and key members of the government, and particularly the President himself.  And she has said on several occasions that she believes that he is a man of goodwill, has the best interests of his country at heart, and she thinks that she can do business with him.

So I think we've been pleased by that and, as you know, that the parliament and the government had taken steps to allow the reregistration of her party -- the NLD -- and they are contemplating how to participate in the political life of the country going forward.  So, indeed, the amendment of the political party's registration law allows for much broader participation of various political groups inside the country going forward.

The country still has a very large number of political prisoners, and we have seen the release of some 200 political prisoners in the last couple of weeks.  It’s not enough, but it clearly is a first step, and one that we welcome.  But we need to see much further progress in this regard.  And Aung San Suu Kyi and the President have underscored that to us in terms of our interactions directly.

There are a whole set of other laws that have been put in place, including new labor organization laws, that if effectively implemented would put Burma near the top of the list in terms of how labor issues are handled through Southeast Asia.

Media restrictions have been eased very substantially in the last several weeks.  And in somewhat of a surprise move, the government suspended the building of a very large dam on the Irrawaddy, which is the legendary, almost mythic river of Burma.

The government also created a human rights commission and has begun very careful, but very responsible, constructive interactions with various international financial organizations, such as the IMF.

So what we’ve seen really across the board is a substantial set of steps that we thought indicated a seriousness of reform.  And indeed, we think that the winds of change are blowing inside the country -- but it’s not far enough yet.  And we believe that the best way to help entrench those changes and see them go further is by an active engagement.  And that’s why the President decided to send Secretary Clinton to Burma.

We will be in Burma on December 1st and we will have consultations both in Nay Pyi Taw and in Rangoon.  So we’re seeking a parallel engagement in which we work very closely with our interlocutors in the government, including the President, the foreign minister, members of the Parliament, but also, constructive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi; critically, has been suggested, elements of what are called the ethnic minority groups that make up a large part of the country, and other discussions with civil organizations who have been involved in emergency response after Hurricane Nargis.

Q: I’m sorry, December 1st is the Secretary’s trip, is that correct?

Senior US administration official:  Yes.  I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear.



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COMMENTS (14)
 
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Myo Wrote:
24/11/2011
We have all the resources, you name it then we have it. All the Burmese talented people are waiting for this opportunity to go back and build our Home.

Currently I am studying at MIT and thought of going back and make development at Burma after my graduation.

nyi nyi Wrote:
24/11/2011
To be honest,I know that burma will alliance with US when they started to delay the DAM project. Otherwise, they cannot deal with the China who is the main supporter of burmese general over decades.On the other hand, it is the good time for US to go inside it. The world economy goes down and asia pacific is the good market to make new businees.Again, a country like burma is the good place for them to restart again. All in all, there are so many benefict from both side. Country will develop more, there will be more jobs rather than girls are working at karaoke and massage. If the Generals are really looking forward to the changes, this is really good sign. Currenly thailand is flooding and it is the good time to start.
We strongly welcome it . Come on Myanmar!

linnhtetmaw Wrote:
24/11/2011
A lot of Burmese around the world are looking forward and are glad of the changes taking place in the state. i think that if they can build the real foundation, Myanmar can be on top in South East Asia by 30-40years from now.It will also depend on the next generation of Burmese citizens too so it all starts from the classroom..

Derek Wrote:
24/11/2011
Where can I find the best roast duck in Yangon?

Ohn Wrote:
21/11/2011
Than Shwe was like a naughty boy who jumped over the fence and faced with a large mean dog. After voluntarily giving in to the Chinese who throughout the history of the world has not shown an ounce of conscience or qualm but sheer ruthlessness and cruelty dealing with their own or the others, with concessions after concessions ( where his various lieutenants went to China and signed MOU’s) he finds he can't undo it now. Chinese now acts like they own HIM.

The distress signal (stopping the dam) was picked up by the ASEAN and the “developed countries” readily waiting in the wing. They also have similar interest as well now. To build rails, roads and ports for faster and more profitable access across Burma for the benefit of multinationals companies with ready consumer market of the insatiable Chinese. All of these plans will benefit enormously to the companies concerned as well as the Chinese and the ASEAN and “western” governments.

Ohn Wrote:
21/11/2011
All except the Burmese public who will be left with irreversibly damaged environment, loss of traditional farm land, loss of income and livelihood, fractured families and social structure and advent of consumer culture, and erosion of morality, traditional culture and social fabric. The reaped benefit would still go to a few connected Burmese regardless of who joins the government now.

This will also entails “annihilation” of anybody in the way, now with the added support and at least tacit approval of the “democratic” countries and NLD.


Even though the Americans would want the Chinese not to be sole handlers of the military (in whatever form they want to present themselves with eg. Fake parliament) they would be in thorough agreement in the matter of the loot of the country along with ASEAN and other Asian powers.

Ohn Wrote:
21/11/2011
It is like the Burmese hare is chased by the Chinese hounds into the path of the gun men the Americans and the ASEAN. The result for majority Burmese will be the same.


For the majority Burmese the result would simply be loss of any ownership – of traditionally own land and natural reserves of the country - and their livelihood with benefit going to small clique of people who will be the vocal crowd drowning out the feeble voice the people have.

And imagine these poor things singing the praise of the arrival of the saviour Americans.

KML Wrote:
21/11/2011
It is very enlightening for the fact that concern about political prisoners is mentioned in this interview. Although they are still behind the bar, their contribution towards Burmese democratic process should not be forgotten.

Alexander Graham Bell invented telephone and Wrights brothers’ pioneered aeroplane. But the real beneficiaries are the Telco giants and Boeing, Airbus etc.

Dear respected political prisoners, you may not enjoy any luxury. But if Burmese people, including ethnic nationalities, enjoy peaceful and developed nation, your sacrifice will be worthy.

Nukgan Wrote:
21/11/2011
To show the point of my earlier comment, let me add quotes from an article just published on a Kachin news site: http://kachinlandnews.com/?p=20986

"The deals are made, the proposals are exchanged, and the promises are rendered, signifying progress in the Burmese political scene. The ethnic minorities are, however, once again remain marginalized and neglected at the crossroad of political progress. The ethnic issue is at the bottom of their to-do list for any interest party involved.
...
The suffering, displacement, and lives of the civilian Kachins are seen merely as a collateral damage on the road to progress. Therefore, the so-called “constructive engagement” with the Burmese government so far transpires as a double-disappointment for the ethnic minorities. It is evident that the more the Burmese government is successful in its international diplomacy, the more violent and atrocious they become in dealing with the ethnic minorities."

Nukgan: Non-Bama people? Wrote:
21/11/2011
I support the constructive engagement approach and the reforms made, but I am so worried to see that again no one brought up and discussed the situation of non-Bamar peoples in Burma. The wars, the tens of thousands of people who have had to flee their homes, the women raped, people killed, tortured, and living in constant fear for their children, friends, families.

Are the Burmese Army's activities in the lands of Shans, Kachins, Karens, Chins, and many others, as well as the situation of Rohingyas too complicated to discuss? Do the ethnic Bamar democratic leaders of Burma feel so much less responsible in front of the non-Bama peoples? What will be the price of our silence?

While the voice of other ethnic peoples is less loud, they are noticing what is going on, and see it from their unfortunate perspectives.

Nyunt Han Wrote:
20/11/2011
In the photograph Maung Thein Sein and his cronies seemed to be listening eagerly to what Obama had to say.

Richard Aung Myint Wrote:
20/11/2011
Where is Than Shwe and Maung Aye in this equation?

chindits Wrote:
19/11/2011
looks like ethnic issue has to come second after they fill their stomach.

Oo Maung gyi Wrote:
19/11/2011
Fresh winds are blowing inside Burma. Every things depend on both side. The Burmese mass is waiting for the good atmosphere to create inside Burma. No more fighting with ethnic and government soldiers. After all the end justify the means. Let us wait and see.

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