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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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