U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visits Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her house in Rangoon, Burma, on December 2, 2011. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
AAP staff report
Rangoon, Burma (Dec. 2, 2011) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met one Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence in Rangoon this week. It was the first official meeting with a U.S. government official since her release from house arrest by the military controlled government.
Clinton is the first American Secretary of State to visit Burma in more than 50 years.
“I came here because we believe that the new reforms raise prospects of change, and we wanted to test that for ourselves,” Clinton said.
Clinton spoke on her meeting Aung San Suu Kyi at private dinner Dec. 1 at her home in Nay Pyi Taw. The two had spoken once before but this was their first meeting at a turn of the century lake residence that’s been in her family for generations.
State Department officials reported that the two were excited and after some photos went immediately into conversation. The two spoke about Clinton’s meetings with the Burmese junta government in Nay Pyi Taw.
“We have been inspired by her fearlessness in the face of intimidation and her serenity through decades of isolation, but most of all, through her devotion to her country and to the freedom and dignity of all of her fellow citizens,” she said
Clinton said the future of Burma was brighter due to Suu Kyi’s steadfast and clear leadership of the opposition and as a voice of the diverse ethnic peoples that would otherwise not be heard.
“About the way forward, democracy is the goal,” Clinton said. “That has been the goal from the very beginning. And yet we know that it has been a long, very difficult path that has been followed.”
Clinton said the United States wants to be a partner with Burma, and more to work to further democratization and for the release of all political prisoners. She encouraged Burma to begin the difficult but necessary process of ending the ethnic conflicts and to hold elections that are free, fair, and credible.”]
Clinton met for two and a half hours with President Thein Sein and then with both sessions of the upper and lower houses. She expressed the mood of trying to get a clear sense of intentions and the directions of the government. She was also given a tour of Shwedegon.
The State Department noted that leadership dialogue was specifics about a comprehensive set of initiatives that the government intends to put in place, ranging from further prisoner releases, on ending military ties with North Korea. There was talk about a new approach to ending ethnic violence and beginning a process of national reconciliation, and general steps designed to just improve the quality of civic life.
Another State Department official described the meetings as useful today and frank, a constructive discussion of a common agenda of issues relating to opening the political process. There has been only intermittent dialogue between the U.S. and Burma for the past 20 years. Burma suspended diplomatic ties in 2004 and 2005.
With the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners the U.S. is considering support for an expansion of the UNDP’s country program inside Burma. It could results in an increase of assistance directly for microcredit and health inside the country.
The discussion also involved the substantial problem of opium and opiate productions, and also methamphetamines in Burma. The U.S. is renewing its cooperation in counter-narcotics and considered this in the best interests of both nations. Most drugs from Burma end up in China and other parts of Asia, but also the United States and Western Europe.
Burma was part of the British Empire until the end of World War II. With independence the majority ethnic Burmese dominated the government until 1947 when a Burmese Republic was born. For the next 40 years there were periods of peace and democracy followed by military coups.
Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy Party won 62 percent of the vote and 80 percent of Parliamentary seats in the 1988 elections but were then jailed by the military regime that refused to relinquish power. National riots followed and on Aug. 8, 1988 the military cracked down and killed thousands.
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party won a landslide election in 1990, which was quickly suppressed by the military regime. She remained under house arrest for 24 years and could have traded her incarceration to give into the demands of the junta.
She refused and became a symbol of democracy the world over and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Amidst pressure from other Asian nations and the world, the military junta agreed to free Suu Kyi in 2011. She is now a candidate for a Parliamentary seat.