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Showing posts for "Aung San Suu Kyi"

Are the New Democracies Pro-Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi scatters rose petals at the memorial of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi November 14, 2012. In the past, Suu Kyi has expressed disappointment with India for engaging with Myanmar's military junta. Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi scatters rose petals at the memorial of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi November 14, 2012. In the past, Suu Kyi has expressed disappointment with India for engaging with Myanmar's military junta (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Last month, democracy icon and Burmese parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi traveled to New Delhi at the invitation of Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh to deliver the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture.  Despite the two countries’ close proximity—India and Myanmar share an 800-mile border—the occasion marked Suu Kyi’s first visit to India in forty years. In recent years, Suu Kyi has publically expressed her disappointment in the Indian government’s decision to reverse decades of pro-democracy support regarding Myanmar, and pursue a more realist policy of accommodating the ruling junta. Thus, Suu Kyi’s address in New Delhi marked a potential shift in Indian-Burmese relations, and an opportunity for India to publically express support for its neighbor’s democratic transition. Read more »

U.S. Policy Toward Myanmar: Too Much, Too Soon?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Crowds line a street outside the home of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as U.S. president Barack Obama arrives to meet her in Yangon November 19, 2012. Crowds line a street outside the home of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as U.S. president Barack Obama arrives to meet her in Yangon November 19, 2012 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

On Monday Yangon time, President Obama visited Myanmar’s former capital and became the first sitting American president ever to travel to the one-time pariah. His itinerary included meetings with both President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as an address before Burmese students, officials and former generals at the historic University of Yangon. “When I took office as President, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear.  I said, in my inauguration address, ‘We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,’” said Obama during his remarks. “And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun, as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip.” Read more »

More on the Strife in Rakhine State

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Muslim children collect water at a refugee camp for those displaced by violence earlier this year outside Sittwe, Rakhine State, October 30, 2012. Muslim children collect water at a refugee camp for those displaced by violence outside Sittwe, Rakhine State, October 30, 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)..

While we on the East Coast of the United States get battered by the hurricane, reports suggest that the most recent wave of strife in Rakhine State has cooled, at least temporarily. The Irrawaddy reports that at least 22,000 people have been displaced by the most recent conflict in Rakhine State, according to the UN, but that calm has been restored for now, albeit with a significantly larger presence of security forces on the streets of major towns and cities in the state, including 5,000 more police and at least 1,000 more border security forces.

Although it is certainly good that some calm has been restored, no one believes that another explosion of violence will not occur soon in Rakhine State. Read more »

Myanmar’s Ethnic Violence: Where Is Suu Kyi?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People collect pieces of metal from the rubble of a neighborhood in Pauktaw township in Rakhine State, Myanmar that was burned in recent violence October 27, 2012. People collect pieces of metal from the rubble of a neighborhood in Pauktaw township in Rakhine State, Myanmar that was burned in recent violence October 27, 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past week, violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State, in the western part of Myanmar, has flared up badly once again. According to reports in local media and the news wires, over the past seven days at least sixty —and as many as one hundred— people have been killed in clashes. The local security forces allegedly have been firing on some crowds, and other reports suggest that the refugee camps set up for Muslims in the area have already become so overcrowded that they can no longer hold new arrivals. Read more »

Evaluating Suu Kyi’s and Thein Sein’s Trips to the United States

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi is presented with the Congressional Gold Medal by House Speaker Boehner in Washington. Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi is presented with the Congressional Gold Medal by House Speaker Boehner in Washington (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

The past two weeks have probably been the most high-profile weeks for Myanmar in the United States since the uprisings and crackdowns in Myanmar in 1988. The much-awaited visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi drew crowds that could be compared, in some ways, only to visits of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. And Suu Kyi, in many ways, delivered, showing flexibility on sanctions that will allow for a much greater U.S. presence in Myanmar, displaying the humor and lightness of touch at events that was concealed by years of harsh government policy toward her, and offering a level of forgiveness of her former jailers that could help show the way forward for reconciliation in a future democratic Myanmar. Read more »

Hillary Clinton Meeting With Thein Sein Major Success

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's president Thein Sein addresses the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York. Myanmar's president Thein Sein addresses the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

As reported yesterday, following a meeting with Myanmar president Thein Sein, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States would now be easing the American ban on imports from Myanmar, which will be enormously beneficial to the Myanmar economy. This follows a similar move by the European Union, which now has allowed Myanmar to join the Generalized System of Preferences scheme it has for poor countries to access the EU market.

Though the announcement was important, just as important was the fact that Clinton met with Thein Sein during his trip to the United States —the United Nations General Assembly period is packed with bilaterals, and it would not have been hard for her to skip one more bilateral—and publicly handed Myanmar a reward that reflected positively on President Thein Sein. Read more »

Suu Kyi’s U.S. Visit: Overshadowing the Real Powers in Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. president Obama speaks with Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi during their meeting in the White House. U.S. president Obama speaks with Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi during their meeting in the White House (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s two-week visit to the United States has thus far proven highly successful, at least on the terms understood in advance. As she did in Europe, Suu Kyi has wowed audiences in the United States, on a level that can be compared to no one other than the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela for the awe that people feel in meeting her. She has received award after award, and graciously sat for more policy meetings, roundtables, events, and conferences than any Washington official would ever want to endure while jetlagged.

Without a doubt, Suu Kyi’s relationship with the United States, as well as with other democratic powers, is important for Myanmar’s future, and critical to increased aid flows to the country. Read more »

Review of New Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Aung San Suu Kyi, chairman of Rule of Law and Peace and Stability Committee of House, attends a meeting of the committee at Yangon Division Parliament in Yangon. Aung San Suu Kyi, chairman of Rule of Law and Peace and Stability Committee of House, attends a meeting of the committee at Yangon Division Parliament in Yangon (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Although Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has attracted numerous biographers over the past twenty years, the new biography of her by longtime British journalist Peter Popham is surely the most thorough and, in some ways, most critical of Suu Kyi, who is now making the transition from longtime opposition leader to member of Parliament and leading ally of the Myanmar president. The switch has not been easy for Suu Kyi, a challenge many former opposition leaders, from Lech Walesa to Nelson Mandela, have faced before. Read more »

Review of Peter Popham’s Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi walk in the rose garden at Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence in Buckinghamshire, southern England June 22, 2012. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi walk in the rose garden at Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence in Buckinghamshire, southern England June 22, 2012 (Peter Nicholls/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past week, Aung San Suu Kyi has been on a global tour, finally accepting the accolades she won but was unable to receive in person, meeting with longtime supporters in Europe, and giving what is said to be the first speech by a foreign woman to both Houses of Parliament. Yet when she returns to Myanmar, she will have to continue her struggle to reconcile her longstanding role as opposition leader and conscience of democracy with her new role in helping, along with President Thein Sein, promote the reform process. It is not an easy balance to strike, and for a thorough understanding of Suu Kyi’s life and philosophy, Peter Popham’s new biography The Lady and the Peacock is invaluable. Read more »

Disturbing Signs of Myanmar’s Reforms Coming Undone

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's President Thein Sein (pictured) abruptly canceled his visit to the recent World Economic Forum in Bangkok. Myanmar's President Thein Sein (pictured) abruptly canceled his visit to the recent World Economic Forum in Bangkok (Tomoyuki Kaya/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past two weeks, there have been a number of signs that Myanmar’s fragile reform process, first put on track about a year and a half ago, is facing serious obstacles that, at times, have been papered over. None of these problems alone should derail the reform process, and they are not all exactly linked, but together they could prove significant burdens. Read more »