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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora