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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid