Pressing for Change in Burma

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent meeting with Burmese president Thein Sein, formerly a top general in the military regime, is the latest in a series of developments signaling that the country’s new, quasi-civilian government is reaching out to its opponents,” says Suzanne DiMaggio, Asia Society’s Vice President for Global Policy Programs. “The meeting is Suu Kyi’s highest contact with the government since her release from house arrest in November, and follows two rounds of talks at the ministerial level. Earlier this month, Suu Kyi was allowed to make her first outwardly political trip outside of Rangoon. Other interesting developments are also under way. U.N. special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, is in the country this week after repeatedly being refused a visa following his last visit in February 2010. Additionally, the government has invited the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to engage in dialogue on currency reforms, called on armed ethnic groups to hold peace talks, and stepped back from issuing its daily doses of criticism of foreign media in state-run newspapers. Taken together, these moves are positive and should be encouraged, especially by the governments of ASEAN, China, India and the United States. But unless and until the government carries out concrete economic and political reforms that advance social development in a meaningful way, it’s still too early to say that change is finally coming to Burma. A good next step would be releasing the more than 2,000 political prisoners languishing in Burmese prisons.”

Suzanne, who is based in New York, is Director of the Asia Society’s Task Force on U.S. Policy toward Burma/Myanmar. Read the Task Force Report and related materials here.

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