News / Asia

In Burma, Visiting Dignitaries Line Up to Ride Crest of Change

Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after meeting with Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, one of many recent high-profile visitors, in Rangoon, Dec. 26, 2011.
Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after meeting with Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, one of many recent high-profile visitors, in Rangoon, Dec. 26, 2011.
Daniel Schearf

Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi met late Monday at her lakeside home with billionaire American philanthropist George Soros, the latest public figure to pay the Nobel Prize laureate a visit since her release a year ago from 15 years of on-and-off house arrest.

Soros, whose foundation supports grantees that provide uncensored news on Burma and activists who call public attention to abuse of power, arrives in the wake of a stream of visits, predominantly by senior foreign dignitaries.

Political Science Professor Carl Thayer of the Australian Defense Force Academy says influential business and political leaders are lining up to ride the crest of change in Burma and to reinforce reform efforts.

"As intelligent as she is, she has been relatively isolated," he says. "And she needs, I think, the advice of people like Soros and others, the financing and foundations, and people on the ground to provide and reinforce her efforts."

In the past month, Aung San Suu Kyi met with the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and foreign ministers from Indonesia and Japan. Later this week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague is expected to visit.

Hague’s visit will coincide with a general amnesty for prisoners announced Monday by Burma’s state media.

In what is typically a regular gesture to mark Burma’s Independence Day, selected prisoners will have their sentences reduced beginning Tuesday. It is not clear how many in jail will be affected by the amnesty or how many political prisoners will be included.

Burma is holding hundreds of people for their political beliefs. Clinton and other officials visiting Burma have joined Aung San Suu Kyi in calling for their immediate release.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says Clinton’s visit opened the way for diplomatic engagement with Burma, also known as Myanmar.

“It is a green light for other countries to begin to lift sanctions [and] provide development assistance," he says. "They have to be careful by not promoting the commercial interests too much too soon. There are some dissident groups that see all of this as a big kind of commercial deal.”

Burma is a major source of natural gas, gems, and timber, but trade is limited by Western countries because of economic sanctions over the military’s suppression of democracy and human rights.

Since the government of President Thein Sein took office in March, replacing overt military rule, it won praise for a series of liberal political and economic moves. President Thein Sein held direct talks with Aung San Suu Kyi after assuming office.

Thitinan says cooperation between the two is vital for the momentum of reform to be sustained. He says there are still hardliners in the government who would derail the process if it goes too fast.

"The momentum that we are seeing is just unprecedented and breathtaking," he says. "It is going to be difficult to reverse some of it without incurring a great cost to the Myanmar rulers. Even if they want to slow it down, to reverse it, now they are in too deep. Now I think leading up to the Myanmar chairmanship of ASEAN 2014. I expect the reforms to be sustained."

On Sunday, Burmese authorities hiked gas prices by 30 percent. A similar unannounced price jump in 2007 sparked protests that were later crushed by the military.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs