News / Asia

Burma Working to Change Image

Burmese President Thein Sein's visits this past week to the United States and the United Nations appear to be moving the country's image in the right direction.  Now the question is how soon the country itself will follow.

At the airport in Rangoon this week, supporters waited for Thein Sein, already proclaiming his U.N. visit a success.

"I came here to welcome Mr. President because I love the speech he gave at U.N. I think I should welcome him, because he is our president and he could really change our country," said one supporter.

Yet even as he drove away, questions about the ultimate impact of the president's U.N. speech linger.  For example, when will he allow foreign investors to start putting money into the Burmese economy?  

In an exclusive interview with VOA's Burmese service before heading back home,  Thein Sein said it is a work in progress:

"There is danger of business people ending with some control in administrative matters," he said. "That’s why it’s important not to have a negative impact on our sovereignty. It’s also important not to destroy our environment.  We don’t want our natural resources to be extracted leaving nothing behind."

The Burmese president also tried to ease concerns about corruption in general, pointing to his relationship with opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who herself has been touring the U.S.

"Regarding rule of law, Parliament deems it necessary to take up this matter," added Thein Sein.  "Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also has often spoken about the importance of rule of law.  Since rule of law and anti-corruption are also my priorities, our government is also working on this.  As Parliament is working on it too … this effort of working for the same goal leads to a good future."

High level meetings between Burma and the U.S. seem to have alleviated some concerns in Washington, but not all, says Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

"We are also in very close consultation with those in-country - inside Burma, inside Myanmar - that have very strong interests in how the process of American engagement, transparent investment, responsible investment takes shape," said Campbell.

As for whether everything goes according to plan, it seems most Burmese will just have to wait and see.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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Comment Sorting
by: KD
October 02, 2012 1:35 PM
I support the Burma president for stating that he will have to control the foreign investment so that they will not deplete Burma's natural resources and leave nothing behind. Yes, he is doing the right thing. Unlike Burma president, PM hun sen of Cambodia has allowed cambodian natural resoureces to be depleted and destroyed through illigal logging, unlawful land concessions, and land grabbing. hun sen is a shame to Cambodia and the international communities.

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