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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora