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Asean Affairs   3 June  2011

McCain reaches out to Myanmar

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     3 June 2011

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In another sign of US involvement with Asean and its member states, US Senator John McCain this week visited Myanmar and met with leaders of the new government and opposition leaderDaw Aung San Suu Kyi

The senior Republican's visit comes as President Barack Obama, who beat McCain in the 2008 White House race, pursues greater engagement with the nation, whose junta recently handed power to a nominally civilian government.

"Mr McCain said they (the US) will always help and support Myanmar democracy. We are also satisfied with the meeting with him," Suu Kyi told reporters after the pair met for about one hour at her lakeside home.

The US senator described Suu Kyi as "my inspiration" and wrote in the guestbook at her party's headquarters: "Thank you for unwavering support for 'the Lady'," as she is widely known in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November shortly after the junta held the first election in 20 years.

The vote, which was won by the military's political proxies, was marred by widespread complaints of cheating and intimidation.

On Wednesday McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, met with Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo and Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in the capital Naypyidaw, according to state media.

They "exchanged views on promotion of bilateral ties and cooperation between the two countries," the New Light of Myanmar government newspaper reported.

He also met on Thursday with senior figures of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, as well as a small group of recently released political prisoners and people infected with HIV.

The NLD was abolished by the junta for boycotting the November poll and has no voice in the new parliament.

McCain also met Khin Maung Swe, the leader of the National Democratic Force, formed by a group of former members of Suu Kyi's party who broke away to run in the November vote and won several seats in parliament.

"We will discuss the hot issues here like sanctions and (a prisoner) amnesty," Khin Maung Swe said before the talks.

Rights groups criticised Myanmar last week after it released thousands of prisoners last month in a so-called amnesty. Estimated to number more than 2,000, most of those freed were common criminals rather than political prisoners.

McCain's talks follow a visit last month by senior US diplomat Joseph Yun, who called for "meaningful, concrete steps" towards democracy, respect for human rights, and the release of political prisoners, the US embassy said.

It was the highest-level meeting between the two nations since the handover of power to the new government.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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