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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                                 16  September 2011

Clinton urges "concrete actions" by Myanmar on rights

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday urged Myanmar to take "concrete actions" to improve human rights, voicing concerns about the new government's record despite its outreach.

Addressing a joint news conference after talks with Australian leaders, Clinton said that the new US coordinator on Myanmar, Derek Mitchell, had "productive meetings" on his first visit to the country this week.

She welcomed that the military-backed government in the nation formerly known as Burma has spoken of "the need for important reforms" and launched a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But she added: "Frankly, we have serious questions and concerns across a wide range of issues from Burma's treatment of ethnic minorities and more than 2,000 (political) prisoners to its relations with North Korea."

"I would urge the Burmese government to follow its words and commitments with concrete actions that lead to genuine reform, national reconciliation and respect for human rights," the top US diplomat said.

President Barack Obama's administration in 2009 opened a dialogue with Myanmar, concluding that the previous policy of seeking to isolate the regime has failed. But the United States has said it will only lift sanctions once it sees progress.

Myanmar's then military rulers held rare elections last year and later nominally handed over power to civilians. The opposition and the United States branded the moves as a sham meant to cement the military's control.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who visited Myanmar to meet its new government and the opposition, said he agreed "wholeheartedly" with Clinton's approach and supported engagement with the regime.

"We welcome recent signs from the Burmese regime that they are open to such a dialogue," Rudd said.

"But like the United States, we proceed cautiously and we would call on the Burmese regime to talk concrete steps to manifest to the world at large that they are serious about that country becoming a democracy without the threat of imprisonment for those who pose, in the regime's view, a threat to them."

The United States plans to hold further talks with Myanmar when its foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, visits New York next week for the United Nations General Assembly, a senior US official said Wednesday.


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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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