Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hillary Clinton Burma visit: Suu Kyi hopeful on reforms

BBC

Hillary Clinton  with Aung San Suu Kyi  
Mrs Clinton and Ms Suu Kyi began formal talks on Friday, following a meeting the previous day
Aung San Suu Kyi has said she is hopeful that Burma can get onto "the road to democracy", after talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She welcomed reforms that have enabled her party to stand in elections, but said more needed to be done and called for political prisoners to be freed.

The opposition leader held a morning of talks with Mrs Clinton, the most senior US official to visit Burma in 50 years.

They promised to work together to promote democracy in Burma.

"I am very confident that if we work together... there will be no turning back from the road to democracy," said Ms Suu Kyi after the talks.

But she added that the country was "not on that road yet".

The country is still plagued by ethnic conflicts and the government continues to hold hundreds of political prisoners.

The US maintains tight sanctions on senior leaders in Burma, which was ruled by a brutal military junta from 1962 until last year.

At the scene

As it tries to re-engage with Burma, Washington has made it clear that it will consult closely with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Crucially the Nobel laureate has told Mrs Clinton that she trusts President Thein Sein. But American officials say it appears not everyone in his entourage is on board with the push for change.

There's hope now that Mrs Clinton's visit will help reinforce the hand of reformers in the country.

Washington is offering further rewards if reforms continue, and the secretary of state has invited her Burmese counterpart to visit Washington.

The army handed power to a civilian government last year, but the military's primacy is entrenched in the country's constitution.

However, the government has implemented a series of reforms, and freed Ms Suu Kyi from detention and allowed to her take up a role in public life.

The reforms led to speculation that decades of isolation could be about to end.

Mrs Clinton and Ms Suu Kyi had a private dinner in Rangoon on Thursday - the first time the pair had met in person. Mrs Clinton has often referred to Aung Sang Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate, as a personal inspiration.

The two women met again on Friday at Ms Suu Kyi's Rangoon home, where she was held under house arrest for many years.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy recently re-registered as a political party, and she is expected to stand for parliament in forthcoming by-elections.

The NLD won a landslide election victory in 1990, but the junta refused to recognise the result and the party was never allowed to take power.

Ms Suu Kyi spent much of the next 20 years in detention. She was freed shortly after the current government came to power.

On Thursday, Mrs Clinton met President Thein Sein, a former general and top leader of the previous regime.
The pair discussed upgrading diplomatic ties, and the US said it would support some modest changes in Burma's relationship with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Thein Sein hailed a "new chapter" in relations with the US.

Mrs Clinton is the first secretary of state to visit Burma since John Foster Dulles in 1955.

She is due to round off her trip by holding talks with members of Burma's ethnic communities and leaders of the country's developing civil society groups.

The visit comes weeks after President Obama toured Asia and made a series of announcements bolstering American commitments in the region
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