News / USA

Burmese President Welcomes US Engagement

President Barack Obama, left, stands with Myanmar President Thein Sein during a group photo session at the East Asia Summit in Bali, Indonesia, November 19, 2011.
President Barack Obama, left, stands with Myanmar President Thein Sein during a group photo session at the East Asia Summit in Bali, Indonesia, November 19, 2011.

Burma's President Thein Sein has welcomed engagement by the United States and pledged to work with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The president also acknowledged the demand for more reforms but refused to admit his government jails political prisoners.

In his first news conference since becoming President of Burma in March, Thein Sein welcomed President Barack Obama’s plan to send the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, on an official visit next month.

Speaking on the sidelines of meetings of the Association of Southeast Nations in Bali, Indonesia, he told journalists Saturday the visit would be what he called a blessing for his country.

He said President Obama acknowledged political developments in Burma. On the other hand, he added, Mr. Obama said what is happening in Burma is not perfect yet. He says Mr. Obama encouraged Burma to do more to reform and that the U.S. will watch closely to monitor the situation.

ASEAN leaders at the summit voted to allow Burma to host the annual meetings in 2014 after previously skipping it because of its human rights record.

Clinton’s trip will be the highest level visit to Burma by a U.S. official in half a century and comes after the military-backed government made a series of steps to liberalize.

Authorities relaxed their tight grip on the media, allowed labor unions, suspended an unpopular China-backed hydropower dam, released over 200 political prisoners and held direct meetings with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) last week announced they would re-enter politics in upcoming by-elections.

Kelley Currie researches human rights and democracy in Burma for the Project 2049 Institute in Washington D.C. She says the NLD’s participation in elections brings credibility to the government’s claims to reform.

“It’s very significant and it shows her level of support for what’s going on with the regime and that she has a certain level of confidence in this process, Currie says. "I don’t think she would put herself and her party out there if she didn’t have some degree of confidence that they were going be given the opportunity to compete, fairly. And, I think that’s something that the United States and other countries that support democratization in Burma should be really looking at carefully.”

But Currie and other analysts caution the steps made so far could be reversed as they have been in the past and that the government’s actions must be watched closely.

They also point out there are still hundreds of political prisoners in jail in Burma. Many of them were involved in democracy protests that were brutally crushed by the military.

President Thein Sein, himself a former general, refuses to acknowledge any political prisoners.

He says they have released almost 20,000 prisoners as part of general amnesties. However, he says they do not accept that any of them were prisoners of conscience. He says they were arrested and sentenced because they breached existing laws.

President Thein Sein’s government took office in March after nationwide elections that were criticized as a sham designed to keep the military in power.

Even before the vote, the military-drafted constitution guaranteed it a quarter of all seats in parliament.

David Steinberg, a Burma analyst at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., says the military has no intention of giving up power but could lose its grip like past military governments in Indonesia and South Korea.

“The problem is a basic one and that is all the avenues of social mobility in that society are controlled by the military and when that changes, and it will take basically a generation to change, so that you can rise through politics, through economics, through education, through civil society, when these things happen then the role of the military becomes less.”

Steinberg says there is a growing realization in Burma that decades of military rule have turned it from one of the richest countries in the region to the poorest.

He says hosting ASEAN in 2014 will serve to deepen internal pressures to continue reforms.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid