News / Asia

Obama, Burmese President Discuss Way Forward for Reforms

In White House Talks, Burma's President Pledges Further Reformsi
X
May 21, 2013 12:14 PM
President Barack Obama and Burma's President Thein Sein discussed progress of reforms and difficult problems such as ethnic conflicts and religious strife in talks Monday at the White House. VOA senior White House correspondent Dan Robinson reports.

In White House Talks, Burma's President Pledges Further Reforms

— At the White House, President Barack Obama and Burma's President, Thein Sein, discussed political and economic reforms in Burma, human rights and the importance of resolving the country's ethnic conflicts and religious tensions.

It was the first White House visit by a Burmese president since 1966 and came as Obama closely monitors the outcomes of an engagement process he began with Burma in 2009, months after his election.

Most U.S. economic sanctions against Burma have been lifted or relaxed.  Obama made a historic visit to Burma last November.

Burmese president Thien Sein hosted a town hall meeting at VOA in Washington, DC, May 19, 2013. (Alison Klein/VOA)Burmese president Thien Sein hosted a town hall meeting at VOA in Washington, DC, May 19, 2013. (Alison Klein/VOA)
x
Burmese president Thien Sein hosted a town hall meeting at VOA in Washington, DC, May 19, 2013. (Alison Klein/VOA)
Burmese president Thien Sein hosted a town hall meeting at VOA in Washington, DC, May 19, 2013. (Alison Klein/VOA)
Obama said the shift in relations was made possible by President Thein Sein's leadership in moving down a path of political and economic reform.

He said Thein Sein shared his plans for what comes next on "a long journey" with much work to be done.

"The manner in which he intends to continue to move forward on releasing more political prisoners, making sure that the government of Myanmar institutionalizes some of the political reforms that have already taken place, how rule of law is codified so that it continues into the future and the process whereby these ethnic conflicts that have existed are resolved, not simply by a ceasefire, but an actual incorporation of all these communities into the political process," Obama said.

President Thein Sein referred to past "difficulties" in relations.  Burma, he said, is in an early stage of democracy with much to learn, is determined to move forward, and needs help.

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with Burma's President Thein Sein at the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, May 20, 2013. 
  • President Barack Obama sits with Burma's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, May 20, 2013.
  • Burmese President Thein Sein is given flowers outside a town hall meeting at Voice of America, Washington, May 19, 2013. (Alison Klein for VOA)
  • Burmese President Thein Sein attends a town hall meeting at Voice of America, Washington, May 19, 2013. (Alison Klein for VOA)
  • Protesters outside the Voice of America prior to Burmese president Thein Sein's visit, May 19, 2013. (Alison Klein for VOA)
  • Burmese President Thein Sein attends a town hall meeting at Voice of America, Washington, May 19, 2013. (Alison Klein for VOA)
"For democracy to flourish in our country we will have to move forward and we will have to undertake reforms, political reforms and economic reforms in the years ahead.  We are trying our best with our own efforts to have political and economic reforms in our country but along this path we will also need assistance and understanding from the international community, including the United States," Sein said.

The Burmese leader said the discussions covered the rule of law, strengthening of the judiciary system, economic problems and the need to assist Burma's military and police in becoming professional forces.

President Obama urged President Thein Sein to take stronger action to halt violence directed against Muslims in western Burma.

"I also shared with President Thein Sein our deep concern about communal violence that has been directed at Muslim communities inside of Myanmar.  The displacement of people, the violence directed against them, needs to stop and we are prepared to work in any ways that we can with both the Government of Myanmar and the international community to ensure that people are getting the help that they need, but more importantly that their rights and their dignity is recognized over the long term," Obama said.

Outside the White House, demonstrators protested what they called genocide against Muslims in Burma's Rakhine State, and for an end to government military campaigns against the Kachin people.

Soe Kyi Tha, who has lived in the United States for more than two decades, said the Burmese government needs to halt all violence directed against Rohingyas.

"They have to promise that all citizens of Burma are under the law, they cannot just protect the Buddhists in every possible way and neglect all the ethnic minorities, which includes Christian minorities also," Tha said.

Alex Oo represents the Burmese Muslim Civil Rights Association.

"They [the Burmese government] are not doing their job, especially Thein Sein, he is the president.  His responsibility is to take care of the whole country, no matter Kachin, Karen, Shan, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist," Oo said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained a change in which Obama administration statements have begun using Myanmar to describe Burma.

Carney said the U.S. government has allowed "limited use" of the description as a signal to encourage reforms by the Thein Sein government.

"While we are not changing our policy to officially adopt Myanmar, we believe that showing respect for a government that is pursuing an ambitious reform program and a government that is pursuing that agenda is an important signal for it efforts and our desire to help the transformation succeed, but our policy remains that Burma is the name of the country," Carney said.

In another appearance later Monday, Thein Sein said his government is working to peacefully end armed conflicts, end Burma's isolation, and achieve the removal of all sanctions.

He said Burma faces tremendous challenges in moving toward being a state that is first and foremost a servant of the people, no easy task, he said, after decades of authoritarian rule.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid