Hillary’s Burma Visit
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Saturday, October 23, 2021
Interview

INTERVIEW

Hillary’s Burma Visit


By THE IRRAWADDY Saturday, November 19, 2011


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deepening its engagement in Asia Pacific, and Southeast Asia specifically.  As my colleague pointed out, the focus of our efforts here in Burma are really on the democracy and human rights issues that we care very strongly about that have very broad -- that engender very broad interest in the United States.  At the same time, again, as this process moves forward, there is extraordinary potential for a positive set of developments in the region, where you have Burma moving in the direction of reform and potentially having a different relationship with the United States and a deeper integration with the region and the international community.

Senior US administration official:  Could I add on the China question, first and foremost, this is a decision about Burma, of human rights, and it’s in response to measurable, concrete progress that the Burmese leaders are making.  It’s, therefore, not -- it’s about Burma, not about China.  Secondly, China itself benefits from a Burma that is stable, that is prosperous, and that is -- they’re integrated into the international community.  And thirdly, engagement with Burmese leaders by the United States does not come at the expense of China or China’s relationship with Burma.

Q: Just following up on that, taking it from a different tack, do you guys think that part of why Burma is doing what it’s doing is because they want to decrease their reliance on China and broaden themselves out to the rest of the world?  Do you think that they’re playing a role from that point of view?

Senior US administration official:  I think, first of all, it would be fair to say that there are a number of countries in the world that are extraordinarily difficult to make authoritative conclusions about why they do things.  North Korea is in that category.  Until quite recently, so has Burma.

However, I think that, undeniably, one of the things that has led to this process is the leadership of the country is seeing as they travel around Southeast Asia and other parts of the world that Burma is falling farther and farther behind.  This is a country -- and I'll just give you an example, if I could, just one -- so their senior team is here.  They don’t carry BlackBerrys because there's almost -- or any kind of Internet device because there's very little service inside the country.  They recognize that the cockpit of global prosperity is in the Asian Pacific region, and they’re not playing.

And so I think that, more than anything else.  I will also say, having interacted with these guy a lot, they clearly did not enjoy the international isolation that we have subjected them to for decades and they want to rejoin, and they have, frankly, appreciated the respect and the engagement that they’re beginning to receive, and they want to build on that.

And so I think, like all decisions like that, there are a complex set of variables that come to play.  But I also think that they are convinced of the seriousness of how the President has approached this, and the determination of the Secretary of State.  And I’m confident that -- again, they’ve only taken a first step, but they recognize that we are prepared to meet them in that first step as well.

Q: You’ve all said that they haven’t done enough and so forth.  So do you have any specific benchmarks that you’ll be looking for them to accomplish, for example, all of the political prisoners that remain behind bars?

Senior US administration official:  Look, our set of issues -- and these are, by the way, not simply issues that the United States seeks.  They're broadly recognized among what was often referred to as the "Friends of Burma" -- people in Europe, much of Asia, those who follow the developments in this really mythical and tragic country in many respects.

We would like to see, very clearly, political prisoners released.  We're working closely with authorities there and with various organizations, including the International Red Cross.  Probably near the top of the list is a serious internal, domestic, diplomacy between the leadership and the various ethnic groups.  Remember, the country is made up of a large number of largely different cultures, and some parts of the country have been at war -- civil war -- for decades, since the 1940s.  So we need a really systemic level of interaction.

We're seeking further assurances from the government, with respect to its relationship with North Korea and previous interactions on banned articles that we think are antithetical to the maintenance of regional peace and stability.

So there are a whole host of things that we want to continue to work on.  But we have to say that on the issues that we have laid out at the outset of these discussions -- remember, even a long journey begins with a couple of steps -- they have been clear, taking those steps, and have worked with us on identifying the path forward.  And that's one of the reasons why Secretary Clinton is looking forward to going.

Q: And do you have any concerns that the changes that they've made have been cosmetic, as some in the country seem to fear, and that once they get to a certain point of international recognition they'll turn back the clock or something?

Senior US administration official:  Maybe my colleagues would want to say -- but I would just simply say I actually don't pick that up at all.  I think most of the people that I interact with -- and I spend a lot of time talking with people inside the country -- principally Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues and others in civil society believe that the moment is now, that this is a sincere effort; the United States had to get off the sidelines.

And so I think the fear is not that these are simply symbolic or less-than-significant reforms.  I think the concern is how they entrench them, how to continue this process, how to make sure that they are locked in going forward.

Senior US administration official:  I would just add to that that this is also part of the reason why the President felt it was very important to talk to Aung San Suu Kyi before we took this step, in part because he wanted to confirm her support for this engagement.  And in fact she was quite supportive and enthusiastic about the need to try to reinforce the positive steps that have been taken, and to create momentum for reform.



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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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