Saturday 16 December 2017

'Flickers of progress' as Clinton set to visit Burma

Suu Kyi plans to take part in next election

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at an East Asia Summit gala dinner in Nusa Dua,
Bali, yesterday
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at an East Asia Summit gala dinner in Nusa Dua, Bali, yesterday

Damien McElroy in Rangoon and Alex Spillius

Hillary Clinton will next month become the most senior Western official to visit Burma in decades as Washington intensifies its effort to encourage what it called "flickers of progress" from the military regime.

US President Barack Obama telephoned Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, from Air Force One to get her blessing for a visit by the US Secretary of State, the first in more than 50 years.

In a conversation that was unthinkable just six months ago, US officials said that "the president was very struck by both her substantive observations and her warmth. They reviewed the progress that has been made in Burma, including her release, her dialogue with the government, the release of some political prisoners, and legislation that could open the political system further."


En route to a summit in Indonesia, where he will encounter Thein Sein, Burma's military-backed president, Mr Obama said: "For decades Americans have been deeply concerned about the denial of basic human rights for the Burmese people."

He said that the current environment in Burma was a rare opening that could help millions of people "and that possibility is too important to ignore".

"After years of darkness, we've seen flickers of progress in these last several weeks," he added.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) said it would re-register as a political party and contest coming by-elections after boycotting an election last year. "The NLD has not worked as a political party for a long time so we need to practice as a political party again," she said.

The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 but the ruling junta never allowed the party to take power. Ms Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest, a sentence that would last for 20 years.

Burma's next election was not held until November last year, and the NLD boycotted it, mainly because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members.

Now aged 66, Ms Suu Kyi hinted that she would contest one of the 48 by-election seats available. No polling dates have been announced. "If I think I should take part in the election, I will," she told senior party members in Rangoon. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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