Hillary’s Burma Visit
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Hillary’s Burma Visit

By THE IRRAWADDY Saturday, November 19, 2011

(Page 5 of 6)

But, again, I think it was very important to the President to have that conversation with her, in part to ensure that what we are doing is responsive to the dialogue we've had with the Burmese government, but it's also responsive to the views of democracy advocates, chief among them Aung San Suu Kyi.

The other thing I'd just point is that the issue -- my colleague mentioned it -- that really they did focus on, too, was this question of ethnic minorities, where there hasn’t been quite as much progress as there has been on other areas.  So that's something that I think we'll continue to make sure we're raising in the context of these discussions.

But, look, we need to see -- as the President said today, there have been concrete actions taken.  We wouldn't be taking this step if they had just made verbal pledges.  This is in response to actual laws being passed through the Parliament, prisoners being released, changes being -- taking place within the country.  But if those concrete actions don't continue, we won't be able to continue to build on a new relationship with the Burmese.

So we're taking a step forward here.  It's a very significant step.  It's a step that goes beyond U.S. government engagement for over 50 years.  But at the same time, we're clear about the fact that they're going to have to continue to move down this track if we're going to fundamentally change our relationship.

Senior US administration official:  And I would add, it's a step that helps ensure that they continue down that track by, as Aung San Suu Kyi called for, establishing very clear lines of communication, allowing us to speak directly and authoritatively to the leadership about our views about what the future steps ought to be.

The President consulted with Aung San Suu Kyi directly on the significance of the steps thus far, and she emphasized the importance she placed on the U.S. showing the Burmese leaders that their actions -- their positive, constructive actions -- will generate positive responses by the international community, and by the U.S. in particular.

Q: When the President came into office, one of his signature foreign policy approaches was reaching out to adversaries, but it's clear that he pursued a cautious approach on Burma.  And I'm wondering if you can maybe give a little context for why that is, and if you could tie that in to sort of the events, the timeline of -- that you explained of how this came about.

Senior US administration official:  Well, I'd just say one thing, and then these guys may want to say something.  I mean, I think the approach the President made out is that we were always going to be open to engagement, but also we're going to be clear-eyed about how we approach engagement.  The line from the inaugural was, if you unclench your fist, you'll find an extended hand.  And I think what we see now is a gradual unclenching of the iron fist that has ruled Burma for so many years.  And we are being responsive to that.  Our engagement has helped encourage that by laying out these specific steps.  And we're going to continue to use our engagement to reinforce that.

So I think we've maintained the pressures that we have in place.  There are still robust sanctions on Burma.  They still face a great deal of isolation.  But at the same time, we've always been open to pursuing an engagement track as well, and now that that has begun to yield demonstrable progress, we are taking a step to be responsive to that.

Q: Could you just talk a little bit about what exactly Secretary Clinton is going to do, where she's going to go, and just a little bit more about what that December 1st trip will look like?  Is it a one-day trip, or is it --

Senior US administration official:  It will be two days.

Senior US administration official:  If you would allow, I think what we'd like to be able to do is sort of get the story out -- its reasons.  We will, early next week, lay out a very clear schedule.  I will just simply say that she's going to talk to the key stakeholders.  She will be meeting with the President.  She'll have a chance for extended sessions with Aung San Suu Kyi and elements of civil society.

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Myo Wrote:
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:
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:
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:
Where can I find the best roast duck in Yangon?

Ohn Wrote:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
In the photograph Maung Thein Sein and his cronies seemed to be listening eagerly to what Obama had to say.

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

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

Oo Maung gyi Wrote:
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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