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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, US demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid