US Strengthens Ties with Burma: Hopes for a Democratic Partner

Posted on May 29, 2012 in GlobeScope

By Carrie Williams:

Burma/Myanmar is a country that is rich in oil, gas and mining and the United States is naturally interested in investigating into that business to support the Myanmar economy, create healthy diplomatic ties, as well as support its own economic desires.

The US plans to lessen sanctions on trade with the country because opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was just a month ago elected as a parliament leader. After her release from house arrest in 2010 for traveling in violation of travel restrictions, she’s again become a positive political figure. The US is mainly against lending to Myanmar by institutions like the World Bank. The US apparently is ready to strengthen relations with this country whose economy was closed off for decades. The opposition has finally come into power again.

Myanmar seems to be another example of post-colonial withdraw and the disaster that follows. The UK doesn’t recognize the regime that named it Myanmar, so it remains with two names. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s says Myanmar’s democracy in now blossoming. Many others say it is impossible to reverse the path it is taking there. Another part of Clinton’s visit to Myanmar was over concern for China’s growing political clout in Southeast Asia. As usual, the United States is concerned with its own security. She wants to keep the military in the country as an “insurance policy” and a safeguard

“The United States remains concerned about Burma’s closed political system, its treatment of minorities and detention of political prisoners, and its relationship with North Korea,” said US President Obama in a statement. He thinks Burma may play a role in the underground terrorist financing system, so it is necessary to keep a close watch on the government. . In 2010, a BBC reporter claimed it was difficult to communicate with people in the capital city of Nay Pyi Taw, there was a climate of fear and people wouldn’t talk. It is clear, that as they try to rebuild the capital Nay Pyi Taw, there are shadows of a previous regime.

The United States’ senators welcomed the nomination of Derek Mitchell, the current special envoy to Myanmar and he is to become the first U.S. ambassador to be based in the country since 1990. In 1988, because of a government crackdown on democratic activists the US had to withdraw their ambassador. Myanmar will also send a full ambassador to Washington, a post to be taken by its current permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, Than Swe.

Many in Myanmar believe that the woman named Suu Kyi is the rightful leader of their country. She spent 15 years under house arrest, unable to see her children or her husband who died of cancer in 1999. She backs the suspension of economic sanctions and said after five decades of military dominance, democratic reforms were still reversible. Yet, the people of Myanmar seem to believe in democracy. A spokesman for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, Nyan Win, said, “We welcome the U.S. decision to relax sanctions” and support the new U.S. ambassador. They’re waiting for the military to reduce its presence and keep good business relationship with the U.S.

The country was previously occupied by the British. Then in 1962, the country was ruled by a military junta that exercised absolute power over the people. The fighting over the past year has displaced tens of thousands of villagers. Many other human rights violations occurred such as child labor. Amnesties were granted by Myanmar’s President Thein Sein to political prisoners who were released after their arrest in 1988 during political protests. He plans to release more when the time is appropriate.

It’s beneficial for the US to lift restrictions on trade with Myanmar to open up the country to international business. Perhaps then the country can heal itself from its previous difficulties. The US needs to stop dealing with the businesses associated with the country’s military. The focus should be more on building healthy relationships with the recovering country and its blossoming new leaders.