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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs