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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid