Connect with us

Obama offers Myanmar fresh start in relations



US President Barack Obama offered Myanmar a new era in relations if it reforms and promised democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi his eternal support in letters hand-delivered by his top diplomat Thursday.

The high-stakes personal intervention in a country long regarded by the West as a pariah state came during a historic visit by Hillary Clinton, the first US secretary of state to set foot in the isolated nation for 50 years.

In a message to President Thein Sein, Obama offered a “new phase” in ties and requested “tangible outcomes” from a political reform effort which Washington is testing before deciding its next step.

Obama also thanked Suu Kyi for her “inspiration” to people around the world in a separate letter to the fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The country formerly known as Burma has surprised observers with a series of reformist moves in the past year including releasing Suu Kyi — whom Clinton met Thursday for a private dinner in the main city Yangon — holding dialogue with the opposition and freeing some political prisoners.


Obama told Thein Sein, a former general, that Washington wanted to “explore how the United States can support and advance your efforts to transition to democracy and promote protection of human rights”.

US officials said the message, released by Clinton’s aides, aimed to signal that Obama was ready to invest personal prestige in engaging Myanmar.

The letter did not mention the words “Myanmar” or “Burma”, thereby bypassing the controversy over the impoverished Southeast Asian state’s true name.


The former military junta renamed the country Myanmar in 1989 but the United States still uses Burma, in a practice intended to irk the generals, who ceded to a nominally civilian government this year.

In her landmark talks, Clinton won promises of further reforms from Thein Sein and offered cautious incentives to encourage new action, saying more needed to be done before US sanctions could be lifted.

“Any steps that the government takes will be carefully considered and… will be matched because we want to see political and economic reform take hold,” she told reporters in Myanmar’s isolated showcase capital Naypyidaw.


Thein Sein, who took charge in March after Myanmar nominally ended decades of military rule, himself hailed a “new chapter in relations” as he met Clinton at his imposing palace decked out with chandeliers and gold-leaf chairs.

Clinton said the United States would open talks with Myanmar to start joint searches for the remains of troops killed in World War II, when the strategically placed country was a major battleground.

She also invited Myanmar to join as an observer the Lower Mekong Initiative, a US programme that offers cooperation on health and the environment in Southeast Asian nations, and voiced support for IMF missions to the country.


“These are incremental steps and we are prepared to go further if reforms maintain momentum. In that spirit, we are discussing what it will take to upgrade diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors,” Clinton told reporters.

The United States has been represented by a lower-ranking diplomat, a charge d’affaires, as a protest since Myanmar’s military rulers refused to accept the results of 1990 elections swept by Suu Kyi’s party.

The opposition leader holds sway in Washington — where Myanmar exile groups keep up a vocal lobbying campaign against the military-backed government — and any easing of US sanctions on Myanmar would almost certainly need her approval.


In an indication of the high esteem in which Suu Kyi is held in Washington, Clinton was due to meet twice with the democracy champion — first for Thursday’s dinner and then for more formal talks on Friday morning.

In his letter to Suu Kyi, Obama said that he had long admired the opposition leader’s “brave and unwavering struggle for democracy”.

He wrote: “Thank you for the inspiration you provide all of us around the world who share the values of democracy, human rights and justice. We stand by you now and always.”


Suu Kyi’s opposition, which boycotted elections last year that ushered in the reform moves, plans to contest by-elections next year that will be a major test of the new political climate.

Obama announced he would send Clinton to test the changes in Myanmar two weeks ago during an Asia-Pacific tour, in the most significant US gesture towards the country in many years.

Clinton has urged Myanmar to free all political prisoners, estimated by activists to number between 500 and more than 1,600, and pressed the government to end long-running ethnic conflicts.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
Continue Reading


Trump’s Cabinet exodus is an emergency — and it’s continually getting worse



One of Donald Trump’s major campaign promises was to “drain the swamp,” an allusion to the cesspool of corrupt and unethical characters crowding the hallways of power in Washington. But in over two years in office, the only major clearing out in the nation’s capital has been of Trump’s own Cabinet.

This article was originally published at Salon

On Friday, Department of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta announced that he would join the long list of recent resignations out of the Trump administration, bowing out in disgrace over his handling of a major sex trafficking case involving billionaire political donor Jeffrey Epstein.

Continue Reading


Damning CNN timeline shows how Trump ‘thinks white people matter more than nonwhite people’



CNN's Brianna Keilar on Monday delivered a damning verdict on President Donald Trump's racist attacks on Democratic lawmakers -- and she backed it up with a timeline of the president's bigoted words and actions.

During a segment about Trump’s weekend tweets, in which he told Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to “go back” to their countries despite the fact that all four are American citizens, Keilar argued that the president's racism is part of a pattern of bigotry that's followed him throughout his life.

"This fits a pattern to the president who has long made it clear that he thinks white people matter more than nonwhite people, even if they're American," she said. "30 years ago he called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five, five minority youths who were falsely accused of rape. Trump [is] still refusing to believe their innocence 16 years after they were exonerated."

Continue Reading


MSNBC host says Trump just openly embraced racists: ‘This actually feels different to me’



On Monday, President Donald Trump went on an unhinged rant against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

In an often rambling question session with reporters, Trump repeatedly told the two Congresswomen to leave America (both are U.S. citizens) if they're so critical of the U.S. and Israel.

MSNBC host Ali Velshi observed that Trump had truly crossed the line and directly appealed to the sentiments of white nationalists.


MSNBC's @AliVelshi: This time "actually feels different to me. This feels like the president really owning the idea that he's saying things that are attractive to white nationalists and racists." pic.twitter.com/vtK1T3GHuU

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]