US Encouraged About Burma Reforms

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (C) walks after a parliament session in the lower house of parliament, in Naypyitaw, Burma, May 2, 2012.
Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (C) walks after a parliament session in the lower house of parliament, in Naypyitaw, Burma, May 2, 2012.

The United States sees opportunities for greater political reform in Burma, following the opposition's decision to join parliament. U.S. offers of assistance have been tied to further political change in the Southeast Asian country.

Burma's opposition National League for Democracy has taken newly won seats in an assembly where one-quarter of the posts are reserved for the military and a large majority of others are held by Burma's military-backed ruling party.

It marks the first public office for Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who dropped threats to boycott parliament over an oath pledging to safeguard a constitution drafted by the military.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said it is a hopeful sign that pro-democracy activists and the government can work together to keep up the momentum of political change in Burma.

"We want to see them work constructively with the government. We want to see the progress continue. And in terms of any rolling back, I think we are going to keep a close eye on the progression of these reforms in Burma," said Toner.

In easing some U.S. sanctions against Burma, Toner said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was very clear that Washington will match action for action as further changes are made.

Asia analyst Doug Bandow of the Washington-based Cato Institute said the voices of opposition lawmakers in Burma's parliament are far more important than the oath they took to get there.

"The longer they go, the harder it is to put it all back in, and to my mind the oath was not the battle to fight. What worries me most is that you have got these hard-line generals, I presume, in the background, who really do not like any of this stuff, that what you want to convince them is that it is safe to proceed. Now if I am Aung San Suu Kyi, I want to change the constitution, but I do not make that front and center today," said Bandow.

Political change in Burma is part of this week's talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Beijing. Bandow said the decision by Burma's military to allow greater freedoms of speech and assembly appears based, in part, on tensions with China, including Burma's decision to suspend construction of a $3-billion Chinese-backed hydroelectric dam because of environmental concerns raised by civilian activists.

"Clearly part of it is this sense that the only real firm support they have is China. It is right next door. They have run into these issues about this dam. They have had the war in Burma that has pushed people into China. China has gotten very upset. I think they suddenly say, 'Maybe we need a little more maneuvering room. So if we are engaged with the U.S. and the E.U., suddenly there are other places we can go, more money coming in,'" said Bandow.

When Aung San Suu Kyi's party won 40 of the 45 seats available in a parliamentary by-election, the United States eased a number of sanctions. Some senior Burmese officials and parliament members now will be allowed to visit the United States.

Washington has lifted its ban on the export of U.S. financial services and investment, and is preparing to nominate an ambassador to Rangoon, along with a full U.S. Agency for International Development mission and a normal country program for the United Nations Development Program.

This forum has been closed.
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs