News / Asia

Foreign Envoys Flock to Burma

U.S. Sen. John McCain, left, is greeted by Myanmar's Vice President Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo during their meeting at the President's House in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, June 1, 2011
U.S. Sen. John McCain, left, is greeted by Myanmar's Vice President Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo during their meeting at the President's House in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, June 1, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Neetie Upadhye

Kevin Rudd became the first Australian foreign minister to visit Burma since 2002, when he touched down in the country on Thursday.

He is one of many international envoys to travel to the long-isolated country since its November election, its first in nearly two decades.

Burma expert Sean Turnell of Australia’s Macquarie University says Rudd and other diplomats are trying to get a sense of the new civilian government.

He says they want to know what is on the agenda of President Thein Sein, once Burma’s fourth-highest ranking military general.

"I think people are just trying to gauge whether there was any change or not," Turnell said. "We know the election was terribly problematic and so on. But there have been some personnel changes. And I just think people are really just trying to see if there has been any change at all."

Each country reaching out to the long-isolated nation has its own motivations. Rudd’s visit marks renewed efforts by Australia to push democratic reform and human rights. The United States also has rights at the top of its agenda.

U.S. Senator John McCain pushed this issue on a fact-finding mission in early June. And on Wednesday, he told VOA that U.S.-Burma ties took a “step backwards” this week when Burma warned democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi to stay out of politics.

“The new government is saying things that appear to give ground to optimism, but their actions have not comported with that yet," McCain said. "And that is very disappointing and most of all the people of Burma deserve better.”

India is looking to capitalize on Burma’s rich natural resources and stabilize the restless border region between the two countries. Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna emphasized business during a June diplomatic visit.

“I think there is great potential in this area to increase trade and investment opportunities. The president was particular to convey that Myanmar is open for investments from all over,” Krishna told reporters after his visit.

Beijing has an eye on energy, and is spearheading several hydropower dams and a gas pipeline extending from the Bay of Bengal, through Burma, to China. When the pipeline opens, China is on track to become Burma’s number one trade partner, surpassing Thailand.

Although Burma has opened its doors to a flood of high-level international visitors, observers say this does not appear to have translated to an improvement in human rights. Turnell says in some cases, the connections have made conditions worse. He draws links between China’s investments projects in Burma’s ethnic Kachin state and the recent deadly fighting there.

“China, unfortunately, has just been incredibly destructive. China’s voracious demand for energy and raw materials is really supplying the old regime, and people connected to it, with vast amounts of money,” Turnell said.

The Burmese government says its soldiers are warding off raids by Kachin rebels on Chinese projects. The Kachin fighters say a breakdown in peace talks triggered the violence that has spurred thousands of Kachin to flee across the border into China. Rights groups have accused the military of raping Kachin women in the conflict.

That deadly fighting and the renewed ban on Aung San Suu Kyi’s political activities are reminiscent of Burma’s former military leadership. But David Lipman, the European Union ambassador to Burma, says something is different.

“This is a time of change. There seems to be change. At the same time it’s a moment of opportunity. We will be waiting to see what happens on the ground. In other words, we are going to judge this government by their deeds,” Lipman said after wrapping up his visit to Burma last week.

Burma says its transition from a military government to civilian leadership is a key step in its “roadmap to democracy.” And government supporters say reform takes time. Time that many Burmese complain is not moving fast enough.  

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs