News / Asia

Military Outreach Seen as New Step in Engaging Burma

Amphibious assault vehicles prepare to hit the ground at a join military exercise, 'Cobra Gold' on Hat Yao beach in Chonburi province eastern, Thailand, February 10, 2012.
Amphibious assault vehicles prepare to hit the ground at a join military exercise, 'Cobra Gold' on Hat Yao beach in Chonburi province eastern, Thailand, February 10, 2012.
Danielle Bernstein
Burma may be invited to observe the largest multilateral military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region for the first time. The invitation is part of the international response to the government's political reforms.

The Pentagon says it supports Thailand's plan to invite Burma to observe the Cobra Gold joint military exercises for the first time. Over 10,000 troops from the U.S. and several Southeast Asian nations participate each year in Thailand, the largest multilateral exercise in the region.

John Blaxland, a senior fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre Australian National University, says military engagement is critical for achieving a democratic, market-oriented state in Burma, because the army is the pivotal institution in the country.

'A compliment'

He says an invitation amounts to a compliment to the military, which has long been isolated from its neighbors, and that the participation in these exercises, even as an observer, is important for regional stability.

"The authorities in Myanmar clearly want to diversify their strategic security relationships," he said. "They have had a very close relationship with China in recent years, India has made overtures, they're part of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], so the opening up of the opportunity of participating in Cobra Gold is actually a very important step.  So for Myanmar to have observer status it's not a huge step forward but a very positive step for Myanmar to come out of its cloistered shell."

The U.S. has recently lifted economic sanctions and made other steps to engage with Burma, including visits this week of military and human rights delegations.

The U.S. and Burma had military ties through the 1980s, and included training exchanges and arms and supplies sales. But after the military government crushed a student-led pro-democracy movement in 1988, most military engagement between the two countries has centered on counter-narcotics measures or recovering the remains of World War II servicemen.

Tin Maung Maung Than, professor at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, sees military engagement as a natural extension of civilian engagement, and an attempt at balancing the Chinese sphere of influence.

"Americans have always been engaging militaries in Southeast Asia in the assumption that they are also a part of the process, democratization, human rights issues," he said. "The military could be one of the players that could hasten or hinder the reform process. From the Myanmar side, again, it is keeping your options open, you are engaging everybody else in the international community, the caveat is that you don't want to upset the Chinese."

Premature engagment

But international rights groups caution against prematurely engaging with the military. Matthew Smith, the Burma researcher for Human Rights Watch, says the military continues to commit abuses, particularly in border areas where ethnic minority militias have been active. He says it is naive to believe the military could be professionalized through engagement.

"One of the key areas in need of attention is accountability for the abuses that have occurred, and increased engagement between the Burmese army and any other military isn't necessarily going to change that. If we did see some movement toward accountability for the abuses that have been very well documented, that would be an indication of positive changes and positive reform within the military but we're just not seeing that yet," he said.

Burma's government, for two decades considered one of the most repressive in the world, began a series of political reforms two years ago, that include allowing Aung San Suu Kyi, the leading opposition figure, to be elected to parliament. Other changes include freeing some political prisoners and gradually opening up the country's economy to foreign investment. However, the military dominates parliament and remains a signficant force in the country. It also continues to fight some ethinic minority rebels in the country.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

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

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: AgMg
October 22, 2012 10:28 PM
Please invite them because they think themself as a great army in Asia. Show them how world class military ability is advanced as their status is as beginner. They think themself as the great army too hi nose.

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