Thursday, September 15, 2016

Obama and Suu Kyi try to bring the two countries together

During her official visit to Washington, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi addressed problems in western Rakhine state, where more than 100,000 Rohingyas remain stuck in camps, separated from Buddhists who are the majority in Myanmar. She said everyone entitled to citizenship in Myanmar should get it. 

"We are sincere in trying to bring together the different communities,'' Suu Kyi said. 

The White House also notified Congress on Wednesday it would be reinstating in November trade benefits to Myanmar because of its progress on workers' rights. The benefits were suspended in 1989, a year after the bloody crackdown on democracy protesters by the military.

The President and the State Counsellor committed to mark this new era in the bilateral relationship by announcing a U.S.-Myanmar Partnership. This partnership, anchored by annual dialogues led by the U.S. Department of State and Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will allow the two countries to broaden and deepen their cooperation across a range of sectors. To further this effort, the President and the State Counsellor committed to collaborate on the following steps:
  • Recognizing the progress toward democratic transition that Myanmar has achieved, including through the election of a civilian-led government, and in an effort to support inclusive economic growth, the United States will terminate the National Emergency with respect to Myanmar and will revoke the Executive Order-based framework of the Burma sanctions program.

  • The United States will restore Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade benefits to Myanmar in light of progress on a number of fronts, including strengthening protections for internationally recognized worker rights.

  • The United States and Myanmar commit to continued cooperation in addressing remaining challenges, such as strengthening the rule of law, promoting respect for human rights, countering trafficking in persons, combatting corruption, and advancing anti-money laundering efforts and counter-narcotics activities. 

  • The United States and Myanmar recognize their shared interest in enhancing bilateral economic engagement and exchanging views on laws and practices that affect bilateral investment flows and foreign investment, including the elements of a high-standard Bilateral Investment Treaty.

  • The United States and Myanmar recognized the important role of small and growing businesses in supporting inclusive economic growth.  The United States intends to sign a loan guarantee with five local microfinance institutions to support over $10 million in loans to small businesses in Myanmar, which will increase access to food and support employment opportunities for communities in Myanmar.

  • The United States and Myanmar are committed to advancing global health security.  In 2017, Myanmar will complete and publish a Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of national capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.  The United States completed and published a JEE in 2016.

  • The United States and Myanmar will expand people-to-people ties including by augmenting English-language instruction with additional training for 1500 English teachers, by expanding U.S. educational advising across Myanmar by 50 percent for students interested in studying in the United States, and by launching a new exchange program for Myanmar leaders that will provide expertise in democratic governance.

  • The United States and Myanmar look forward to the arrival of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers, who will train English teachers as well as teach students in middle and high schools.

It should be noted that in the mean time while Suu Kyi and Obama were meeting in DC, fourteen Rakhine state MPs debated a motion rejecting the legitimacy of the Rakhine State Advisory Commission , which was similar to a proposal in the Union legislature’s lower house put forward and defeated last week. The Rakhine State parliament’s objection to the commission received de facto approval yesterday after no one spoke against it. The crux of opposition to the nine-member commission, amplified by nationalist protests in recent weeks, has hinged on its inclusion of three foreigners, including former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

The human rights groups favor keeping sanctions due to military abuses in ethnic minority regions. A top concern is for Rohingya Muslims, who remain displaced by sectarian violence and are denied citizenship. The military elite, U.S.-sanctioned drug lords and crony companies have huge stakes in the economy, especially in the jade trade, which is worth nearly half Myanmar's economic output.

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