US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her first trip to Burma by meeting President Thein Sein and other top officials in Naypyidaw with armed ethnic conflicts and political prisoners top on the agenda.
She was the first US Secretary of State to visit Burma in 56 years after the visit of US Secretary of State John Foster Dullas in February, 1955.He was the last American Secretary of State to visit Burma during the democratic government of U Nu. At that time, Burma was considered the jewel of Asia. It is encouraging that Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to take part in the political process, but that will not be sufficient unless all political parties can compete in free, fair, and credible elections.
In addition to calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to ethnic violence, Clinton said the US wants to see a truly political system and improvement in human rights. She also warned the country’s leaders to break suspected illicit military, nuclear and ballistic missile cooperation with North Korea that may violate UN sanctions.
Thein Sein had outlined his government’s plans for reform and asked for US help in making the transition from military to full civilian rule.
The modest first steps Clinton announced include Washington no longer blocking enhanced cooperation between Burma and the International Monetary Fund ( IMF ) that could lead to the approval of much- needed loans and support for the Burma. Also, the US would support intensified UN health and microfinance program and resume bilateral counter – narcotics effort.
Following her press conference at Suu Kyi’s lakeside villa, the US Secretary of State addressed reporters for a second time in Rangoon that day when she announced that the US has offered Burma US $ 1.2 million in aid to support micro-finance, health care and assistance for the victims of landmines, and would also support US university and foundations to increase academic exchange collaboration in health, governance and other matters. Hillary told the representatives of minorities (including Rohingya) unity in diversity, recognize to each other, respect to each other and work together.
The assessment team from the World Bank was part of a package that Clinton announced in Naypyidaw offering a handful of modest political and economic concessions to Burma as reward for its recent tentative reforms. Clinton’s visit signifies the Americans’ willingness to invest major political capital in Burma. Clinton brings with her not only the momentum of global outcry for freedom, but also as a leading member of the US administration, she can also use her influence to help reconcile Burma’s various political factions, including the military, democracy activists, and ethnic nationalities.
Clinton’s visit signifies the Americans’ willingness to invest major political capital in Burma. Clinton brings with her not only the momentum of global outcry for freedom, but also as a leading member of the US administration, she can also use her influence to help reconcile Burma’s various political factions, including the military,
democracy activists, and ethnic nationalities.
Meanwhile, the Chinese were openly worried and concerned of Clinton’s visit to Burma. Beijing had taken it as a move to woo Naypyidaw away from its ambit, intruding into its traditional sphere of influence and seen as the US encirclement to isolate and limit its rising power. China still has its proxy’s armies United Wa Stae Army (UWSA) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA). The question of China making use of its proxies to disrupt the warming up of US relation with Burma still looks quite remote for the time being, but replaying the scenario of aiding them could not be ruled out The Global Times, a mouthpiece for the Chinese government wrote that China has no resistance toward Burma seeking improved relationship with the West, but it will not accept this while seeing its interests stamped on. Clinton’s visit has worried China, put the ball firmly in Thein Sein’s court and uplift the spirit of democratic and ethnic opposition camps. Thein Sein should be clear by now that using political prisoners as bargaining chips and keeping armed internal conflict alive to justify the military supremacy role would not work with the US. And if he wants bigger carrot, which is the comprehensive lifting of sanctions and increased legitimacy, he will have to deliver more and not just dwell on his recent piecemeal approach or half-hearted reform process.
The plight of the Rohingya people remains unchanged, though Thein Sein had promised to change the fate of Rohingyas on his visit to Buthidaung Town before the election of 2010. All kinds of persecution are still being tried against them on religious, as well as racial, grounds. It is vital that the US continues to press the regime to recognise the citizenship and ethnic rights of Rohingya. Meanwhile, the restrictions on their basic freedoms like religious freedom, freedom of movement, marriage, education and trade and business must be lifted forthwith. In order to instill sense of security in the minds of terrorized Rohingya people, with freedom from fear, abolish or remove immediately the cruel Nasaka and SARAPA forces and other repressive functionaries from northern Arakan.