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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs