I love Burma (Myanmar). Burma is one of the most important country in my life.
In order for the Myanmar regime to claim that democracy has taken root solidly in the country, it must release all political prisoners, reconcile itself with ethnic minorities and amend the Constitution, which provides legal foundation for the military’s rule.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 3
EDITORIAL: Myanmar must continue with political reforms toward true democracy

Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of Myanmar's (Burma's) pro-democracy movement, shook hands with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and had a private dinner with her on Dec. 2 in Yangon (Rangoon), the country's commercial capital.

This would have been unimaginable just half a year ago.

After meeting with the country's new president, Thein Sein, Clinton praised the steps he has taken for political reform, including the release of political prisoners and dialogue with pro-democracy forces, and said the United States will consider upgrading diplomatic relations with Myanmar.

However, Clinton stopped short of explicitly referring to the possibility of lifting Washington’s economic sanctions against Myanmar, saying Thein Sein’s reforms had only just begun.

She also warned the regime against military cooperation with North Korea.

Clinton’s visit to Myanmar is the first step for President Barack Obama’s new security strategy, which defines the Asia-Pacific region as a “top priority.”

Having been under autocratic military rule for years, Mynamar is now making steady progress toward democracy.
This development can only be very beneficial to the United States and its allies.

But there is no room for unreserved optimism about the country’s current regime, whose key posts are occupied almost exclusively by former senior military officers.
Washington has good reason to think it would be premature to lift sanctions.

The U.S. move is also intended as a warning to China, which has been increasing its influence over the geopolitically important Southeast Asian country.

While the United States has continued its economic sanctions against Myanmar, China has helped develop ports in southern parts of the country and is now building a pipeline to carry natural gas from a Myanmar port to China’s Yunnan province.

In September, however, Myanmar’s government decided to freeze construction of a dam in the north funded by aid from China.

The United States and other countries have welcomed the decision as a sign that Myanmar is reconsidering its unqualified pro-China foreign policy.

We, too, welcome the Myanmar government’s attempt to diversify its foreign policy focus and strike a balance between its relations with China and the United States if it contributes to the nation’s progress toward democracy.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) recently re-registered as a political party after a ban on the group was lifted.

Aung San Suu Kyi has also announced her intention to run for parliamentary by-elections to be held next year.

Some people in the pro-democracy camp question the wisdom of her decision, recalling how the ruling military junta refused to recognize the result of the 1990 general election, in which the NLD won a landslide victory. These skeptics also point out that the number of parliamentary seats that come up for contest in the forthcoming by-elections will be less than one-tenth of the total.

However, it is true that missing out on this opportunity would further muddy the party's political prospects.

It is easy to imagine that it was a difficult decision to make.

Aung San Suu Kyi must be looking beyond next year to a victory in the general election scheduled for 2015.

In order for the Myanmar regime to claim that democracy has taken root solidly in the country, it must release all political prisoners, reconcile itself with ethnic minorities and amend the Constitution, which provides legal foundation for the military’s rule.

We hope the nation’s new government will pluck up the courage to make such bold moves.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano will both visit the country soon.

Tokyo should also watch carefully to see whether Myanmar is making steady progress toward democracy before it decides to supply aid to the country or expand bilateral economic ties with it.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-12-05 06:34 | 英字新聞

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