US Senator McCain urges Burma to reform through dialogue
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US Senator McCain urges Burma to reform through dialogue

United States Senator John McCain started a short trip to Burma on Wednesday to evaluate the situation in the country after a so-called civilian government promising reform took over from a military junta several months ago.

McCain said in Bangkok before his departure that his trip was more of an assessment trip rather than bringing any proposals. McCain flew from Rangoon to Naypyitaw where he was scheduled to meet with vice president Thia Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, chairman of National Parliament Khin Aung Myint, chairman of People’s Parliament Thura Shwe Mann and Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, officials said.

He will return to Yangon on Thursday (June 2) to meet with Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to Irrawaddy News, Ohn Kyaing, a spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), said the senator will hold talks with the NLD central executive committee, representatives from the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, and ethnic leaders such as Aye Tha Aung, the chairman of the Arakan League for Democracy. They are all scheduled to meet McCain on Thursday afternoon at 2pm at the NLD headquarters in Sanchaung Township in Rangoon.


U.S. Sen. John McCain. Pic: AP.

McCain will hold a separate meeting with the NLD central executive committee, before private talks with Suu Kyi at her home overlooking Inya Lake, said Ohn Kyaing.

US President Barack Obama’s administration has voiced disappointment with the results of the November poll, which was marred by complaints of vote rigging and was won by the military’s political proxies.  Rights groups and analysts say little has changed since the new government took power in March. They say the new government is simply a proxy for the military and little has been done to address prevailing human rights abuses and it also neglects to free more than 2,000 political prisoners remaining behind bars.

McCain told reporters in the Thai border town of Mae Sot yesterday that he will discuss opportunities for development of Burma’s international reputation meaning the release of political prisoners and opening of dialogue between the oppositions. He said he will urge the government officials to engage in the dialogue to show they are really interested in progress towards reform.

While he was in Bangkok, McCain urged Burma’s new leaders to release all political prisoners and to assure security for Suu Kyi if she travels around the country to meet the people, which is planned for this month.

Prior to Mr. McCain, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (DAS) for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Joseph Y. Yun held a three-day visit to Burma last month. His May 18-20 trip was the first by a Washington-based official to meet with leaders of Burma’s post-election government. Joseph Yun held talks with several leaders of the new government.

Yun urged the government to take meaningful, concrete steps toward democratic governance and called on authorities to release political prisoners.

According to U.S. Embassy Rangoon Press Release, Yun and his team also met with pro-democracy and ethnic minority leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders of the National League for Democracy. Yun and Aung San Suu Kyi had a useful conversation about how best to promote inclusive dialogue and national reconciliation to fulfill the needs and desires of all Burmese.

Although McCain is not a member of President Barack Obama’s administration, the aim of his trip is the same as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Y. Yun.  McCain’s Burma visit also seems to support a true political reform via dialogue in the country.  He will positively encourage both Thein Sein Government and all other opposition parties to engage in a meaningful talk.

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