Posts Tagged ‘Burma’

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton greets Burmese comedian and recently-released former political prisoner Zaganar at the State Department on February 8, 2011. State Department photo.

Date: 02/08/2012 Description: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton greets Burmese comedian and recently-released former political prisoner Zaganar at the State Department on February 8, 2011. - State Dept Image

Secretary Clinton Welcomes Burmese Civil Society Delegation to United States

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 8, 2012

At the State Department today, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton greeted Burmese comedian and recently-released former political prisoner Zaganar, National League for Democracy women’s empowerment activist Khin Than Myint, and National Democratic Front Kachin ethnic minority rights activist Daw Bauk Gyar. The visitors discussed political prisoners, women’s rights, and the situation of ethnic minorities in Burma with senior officials. Secretary Clinton previously met Zaganar in Rangoon where he participated in a civil society roundtable in December 2011. This is the delegation’s first visit to the United States.

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Remarks on Burma


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
January 13, 2012

Good morning. When I visited Burma in December on behalf of President Obama and the United States, I encouraged authorities to continue along the path of reform. In particular, I urged them to unconditionally release all political prisoners, halt hostilities in ethnic areas, and seek a true political settlement. This would broaden the space for political and civic activity, and by doing so, it would lay the groundwork to fully implement legislation that would protect universal freedoms of assembly, speech, and association. I also urged that they sever all illicit military ties with North Korea.

Since then, we have seen progress on several fronts. Today, I join President Obama in welcoming the news that the government has released hundreds of political prisoners, several of whom have languished in prison for decades. This is a substantial and serious step forward in the government’s stated commitment to political reform, and I applaud it, and the entire international community should as well. Aung San Suu Kyi has welcomed these dramatic steps as further indication of progress and commitment.

Many of the people released today have distinguished themselves as steadfast, courageous leaders in the fight for democracy and human rights at critical times in their country’s recent history. And like all of the people of their country, they want and deserve to have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.

I also warmly welcome news of a ceasefire agreement between the government and the Karen National Union. The KNU has been involved in one of the longest-running insurgencies anywhere in the world, and entering a ceasefire agreement that begins to address the longstanding grievances of the Karen people is an important step forward. It is in that spirit that I urge the government to enter into meaningful dialogue with all ethnic groups to achieve national reconciliation, to allow news media and humanitarian groups access to ethnic areas.

In addition to the ceasefire and the release of political prisoners, the civilian leadership has taken other important steps since assuming power in April 2011, including easing restrictions on media and civil society; engaging Aung San Suu Kyi in a substantive dialogue and amending electoral laws to pave the way for the National League for Democracy to participate in the political process; setting a date for the by-elections this year; passing new legislation to protect the right of assembly and the rights of workers; beginning to provide humanitarian access for the United Nations and NGOs to conflict areas; and establishing their own national Human Rights Commission.

As I said last December, the United States will meet action with action. Based on the steps taken so far, we will now begin. In consultation with members of Congress and at the direction of President Obama, we will start the process of exchanging ambassadors with Burma. We will identify a candidate to serve as U.S. Ambassador to represent the United States Government and our broader efforts to strengthen and deepen our ties with both the people and the government.

This is a lengthy process, and it will, of course, depend on continuing progress and reform. But an American Ambassador will help strengthen our efforts to support the historic and promising steps that are now unfolding. I have also instructed my team at the State Department to identify further steps that the United States can take in conjunction with our friends and allies to support the reforms underway. And I intend to call President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi this weekend to underscore our commitment to walk together with them on the path of reform.

Of course, there is more work to be done, and we will continue to work with the government on their reform and reconciliation efforts, including taking further steps to address the concerns of ethnic minority groups, making sure that there is a free and fair by-election, and making all the releases from prison unconditional, and making sure that all remaining political detainees are also released.

But this is a momentous day for the diverse people of Burma, and we will continue to support them and their efforts and to encourage the government to take bold steps that build the kind of free and prosperous nation, that I heard from everyone I met with, they desire to see. We believe that that future is achievable, and we look forward to being a partner and a friend as we see the progress continue. Thank you.

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Burma, posted with vodpod

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This is a couple of days old, but Mme. Secretary makes some important summary points on the last day of her visit to Burma. She had met with ethnic minorities and civil society leaders previously.

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Press Conference in Yangoon, Burma

Press Conference

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Reuters/AP Soundbite
Yangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

“There can be no true peace or justice until it is shared by everyone, in every part of this beautiful, diverse country. And while there has been some progress in political and social matters, particularly here in Rangoon, terrible violence continues elsewhere, especially in some of the ethnic nationality areas, which, in addition to the continuing conflicts, suffer from unacceptably high rates of poverty, disease and illiteracy.”

“We are prepared to go further if the reforms maintain momentum, but history teaches us to be cautious. We know that there have been serious setbacks and grave disappointments over the last decades. And we want to see a sustainable reform effort that produces real results.”

“We will match action for action, and if there is enough progress, you know, obviously we will be considering lifting sanctions, but as I said before we are still at the very early stages of this dialogue.”

“We want to see all political prisoners released, we want to see a serious effort at peace and reconciliation, we want to see dates set for the election.”

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These pictures are from the State Department and show some events we have not seen previously.  We see Mme. Secretary meeting with ethnic minorities, civil society leaders, and the Burmese press as well as some new images from her meetings with President Thein Sein and members of parliament.  The government pictures were taken at the new capital Nay Pyi Taw.  She then boarded her plane and flew to the old capital, Rangoon (now named Yangon) to visit the golden pagoda and meet Aung San Suu Kyi and the civil and ethnic groups.

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Over a two-day period, for the first time since 1955, a United States Secretary of State visited Burma, now called Myanmar. There were the usual meetings with government officials in the new capital of Nay Pyi Taw, and a tour of a beautiful ancient pagoda, but the highlight of the visit was the long-awaited encounter between Hillary Rodham Clinton and opposition leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. First they dined together at the American Mission in Rangoon and the next day Secretary Clinton visited the lakeside home where Suu Kyi was held under house arrest for approximately 15 years. These are two amazing women each of whom has made history in her own way. Seeing them meet for the first time was bearing witness to history.

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Interview With Jill Dougherty of CNN


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for taking time out. This is a busy trip, historic, really. I wanted to start with Aung San Suu Kyi. It must – I would like to know what it was like to see her face to face. There was obviously a lot of chemistry between you. But I also wanted to ask: Right now, is American policy too focused on her? Dare I say does she have a veto on U.S. policy toward Myanmar?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, let me start by saying that it was just an extraordinary personal privilege for me finally to meet her. I felt like I had known her for years because of all of the information that I had about her and the interactions that friends of mine had with her who carried messages back and forth, and I just really felt like it was meeting an old friend, even though it was our first time. And I deeply admire and appreciate everything that she’s done over the years to stand steadfastly for democracy and freedom and to be someone who people in her country look up to and know that she has their best interests at heart, and they want to follow her because of that.

She is someone who we talk to and rely on about policy advice, and certainly we were very gratified that she encouraged us to engage, encouraged my trip, as she said publicly today, thought that we were proceeding appropriately, cautiously to determine whether or not these reforms were for real.

But she’s not the only person we talk to. For the past two and a half years, ever since I asked that we do a review of our Burma policy, because I didn’t think we were making the kind of progress we all had hoped to for the people here, we’ve had about 20 or more high-level visits from our assistant secretary, our special representative and others. They have fanned out across the country meeting with all kinds of people. Our Embassy here has been deeply consulting with people.

So of course we highly respect the opinions of Aung San Suu Kyi, for all the obvious reasons, but this was a consensus that developed that there was a great desire to encourage this reform and to validate the reformers so that they would feel acknowledged in the outside world and, frankly, encouraged to go even further.

QUESTION: You’ve talked a lot about political reform, but then you have, of course, mentioned economic reform. And one of the key issues there is that the military controls a lot of the economy. Are you convinced that this government is sincere in wanting to really restructure, reform, invite investment from the outside, which could threaten the military?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can only report on what they asked me. They asked that I personally follow through on a request for the World Bank to send an assessment team, that we try to offer technical advice about how they can and should reform their economy. There are a lot of vested interests. You always find that when you move from an authoritarian regime to a more open one. But we’ve seen it work elsewhere. There does have to be a lot of changes in the economy here. They need exchange rate reform. There’s all kinds of basic questions they have to answer. So again, we’re at the very beginning. Where we’ll be in one year, five years, or ten, I can’t sit here and predict. But there was a great desire on the part of the leadership in Nay Pyi Taw to have assistance in reforming the economy, and we will encourage that.

QUESTION: And I know we don’t have a lot of time, but just very briefly, North Korea, big issue here. What is your understanding in brief about what Myanmar was/is doing with North Korea in terms of nuclear or missile technology?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there has been a military-to-military relationship in the past around missile technology in particular. But we’ve been pressing very hard on that, and we had a receptive audience yesterday in talking about the need to end that relationship if the country expects, under this current government, to have any deeper engagement with us, politically or economically, or with South Korea, which has a great deal to offer in terms of development assistance and the like. So we’ve made it clear that it would be difficult for us to pursue our engagement unless that relationship was once and for all ended.

QUESTION: And one question on Iran. Right now there’s a lot of extreme behavior by Iran. We’ve had the Saudi Arabia plot; we had the attack on the British Embassy; there are other reports about Germany against U.S. interests still being investigated. What is going on? I mean, is Iran and the leadership becoming unhinged, or is this some deliberate policy of destabilization?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Jill, we have observed the leadership in Iran engaged in a very serious power struggle between the supreme leader and those around him, the presidency and those around it. So we think there’s a lot of jockeying going on. We believe that the military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, particularly the so-called Qods Force, is gaining in authority, and that’s a dangerous signal, because they seem to be quite reckless. There’s a long history of provocative actions stretching from Saudi Arabia to Argentina that they have precipitated. And it goes with our constant warning to the international community that we’re dealing with a dangerous regime, one that is unpredictable, that seems to be almost irrational from time to time as to the actions they’re taking.

I mean, what did it do for them to unleash mobs against the British Embassy, other than harden the resolve of so many people against them? Their plot against the Saudi Ambassador to the United States seems unbelievably reckless. So it is a sign of desperation, whether it’s because of their internal power struggles, their personality conflicts, the fact that we know the sanctions are really having an impact on them. I can’t predict all of the reasons or the directions that it will go, but it underscores the policy that we’ve been following in the face of their refusal to change their behavior.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t seem to be leading to anything. It’s not stopping their program.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we think that the sanctions have had a quite serious effect on them. Now, we know that there’s more to be done, which is why Secretary Geithner and I announced more sanctions about a week ago, and you just saw the European Union adopt more sanctions. So the vice is getting tighter.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much, Madam Secretary.


Interview With Wyatt Andrews of CBS


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011


QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thanks for your time this afternoon.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Wyatt.

QUESTION: You have said several times you’ve come here to test the Burmese leadership on whether they’re serious about reform. So the question is: Did they pass the test?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s incomplete at this moment, because we saw some positive changes, we’ve heard some encouraging commitments, but there’s still so much to be done, starting with the unconditional complete release of all the political prisoners, that were are still in an engaging mode. We want to follow closely what they actually do, and as I’ve said, when they start to take actions that further the momentum for reform and democratization, we will, too.

QUESTION: When you were sitting in these meetings with them, though, did you have the sense that they meant it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: You know what? I’m going to judge their actions. They certainly said a lot of the right things that we found promising. But we also are aware, as with any of these transitions, there will be those who want to hurry reform, and there will be those who want to stymie it, and then there will be a lot of people in the middle who will be kind of fence-sitting until they see how it turns out.

And one of the reasons for my coming was to send a very clear signal that the United States would welcome this reform process, deepening, continuing, and taking on the hard issues – the political prisoners, the elections, their free, fair, credible nature, the difficult work of trying to end these conflicts in ethnic areas that have gone on for 60 years in some cases, but without which being resolved, the country cannot be unified, cannot be secure and at peace, and there will always be then an excuse for the military to have to assert itself on security grounds.

So there are some very promising steps, and it wasn’t for me to jump to any conclusions based on this one trip, but to come away having delivered a set of clear messages, having heard what I did, and then being in a position back in Washington to continue supporting the reformers.

QUESTION: You are dealing, though, with a military, an entrenched military establishment here. They’re intertwined still in the government, they’re intertwined in big business, industry, every aspect of society. Is it even possible that an entrenched military like this would give up power, support free elections? Is that possible?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It is possible, and it’s happened in other places in this region. We have the history in Korea, where over the years after the Korean War it was a rocky road to democracy and prosperity, and there were a lot of bumps and detours on the way with coups and assassinations and military authoritarianism, but they stayed with it. In Indonesia we have a democracy run by a former general who took off the uniform that is now 11, 12 years old, but looks like it’s really settling in and sustainable. We have examples from Latin America, from Africa, and elsewhere.

So we know it can be done. It’s a question of whether the leadership and the rank and file will accept that there is an important, essential role in any society for a military under civilian rule. And if that can be inculcated by some of the civilian leadership that were formally leaders of the military, then there’s a fighting chance that the attitudes will change and the appropriate delegation of responsibility between a military within a democracy and the democratic leadership can begin to take hold.

QUESTION: When you were in the capital the other day, I’ll bet you asked yourself this question. And the question is: Why is this happening, and why is it happening now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. I’ve talked to a lot of experts, both inside the country and outside, and there are a number of explanations. There was a growing sense among the military leaders and some of their allies in the private sector that Burma was increasingly isolated. They looked around and watched the rising standard of living in East Asia and Southeast Asia in particular. They’re a member of ASEAN. They see the progress that is being made in their neighboring countries, and they started to say, “Well, what’s happening to us? Why aren’t we also progressing?”

And they, I think, concluded that they might miss out on the economic prosperity and the growth that is possible, and having seen that because they were traveling – there was an increase in the opportunities for a lot of the military leaders to get out and see what was happening elsewhere – they said, “Well, what are the ingredients as to what we need to do?” And I know that the Indonesians, because I have talked to President Yudhoyono about this, had reached out to the military leadership and talked about the transition from military to civilian government. So I think there are a lot of trends, sort of economic, strategic trends, and personal experiences that together has created the impetus for these changes.

QUESTION: Tell me a little bit about Aung San Suu Kyi, your impressions of her. And do you think this would be happening without her?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I doubt that very much. I mean, I can’t look back on history and say, “What if? What if?” But her steadfastness, her determination, her dignity in representing a better future, a democratic future for the people of this country, has inspired so many of her fellow citizens. And the fact that she has been generous in sharing her thoughts and her hopes on an ongoing basis with several generations now of her fellow citizens has created a broad-based expectation. I met with a number of civil society activists, democracy activists, human rights activists, ethnic minority representatives, and the vast majority mentioned what she meant to them.

QUESTION: Did her 20 years of resistance to this regime lead to this moment?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it contributed to it. I have no doubt about that. I think it was one of a number of important factors. But what is so remarkable about her witness, because really that’s what it was over all those years, is that no matter how oppressive the regime became, no matter how violent, she continued to embody that quiet, peaceful strength that says to any authoritarian or dictator, “I’m still here. I’m still as committed as I ever was, because what I’m standing for is more eternal than what you are standing for.” And that’s a powerful message, particularly in this society.

QUESTION: There are a lot of people back home who say you should not be here, that by being here you’re rewarding a horrible regime that hasn’t really proven itself on the world stage.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course I know there are those who are skeptical. So am I. I want to be shown what they’re going to do. But it was remarkable to me, Wyatt, how everyone that I met with in the opposition inside society, starting with Aung San Suu Kyi, thanked me for coming, expressed great appreciation for America’s engagement. They think is exactly the right time for me to be here, for me to be saying what I’m saying both privately and publicly.

And with all due respect, I think the people who have been imprisoned, who have watched their loved ones and their colleagues be beaten or even killed, who have suffered so much are better judges about what’s possible than any of us who are so far away, who are certainly hoping for a good outcome but have no stake in it. And therefore, I’m going to be guided by the advice I received from Aung San Suu Kyi and others. And as she said publicly today, we have closely coordinated with her every step that we have taken, and she has been fully supportive.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you.



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Some footage of her meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi at her home as well as a short interview here.

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Interview With Kristen Welker of NBC


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you so much for doing this interview.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Happy to talk to you.

QUESTION: Thank you. What do you think is the most significant development that came out of your meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it was an important meeting for both substantive and symbolic reasons. Obviously, I was thrilled to finally meet her. She felt like an old friend that I was seeing again after some long absence. But it was personally incredibly important to me, but it was also substantively important, because we have worked with her closely over the last months to make sure that we understood what she thought was happening inside the country, that our policy was aligned with that, along with many other people inside with whom we’ve had constant interactions over the past two-plus years. So it was gratifying that she fully endorsed our engagement efforts and that she wants American support for the reformers. She thinks that’s an important message to send. So that was a critical conclusion that came from both my private discussions and then her public comments.

QUESTION: What do you think she means to the people here in this country and to United States efforts to try to help bring about reform here?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that she’s so deeply admired and loved here that people who care about the future, who know that Burma could be so much more, it could place – it could take its place in the world in the 21st century instead of being left behind, as it has been for the last years. I think she is so admired because of her steadfast dignity and determination and the fact that she stands on her own for democracy, for freedom and justice. And then because of the connection with her father, who was the liberator, who achieved independence for Burma, there’s a sense of continuity and what might have been and what still could be. So in so many ways, when I talk with people who are in the opposition, of course, in her party and elsewhere, in civil society, the ethnic nationalities, her name comes up all the time because people see her as their leader on behalf of a better Burma.

QUESTION: President Obama has recently said that his foreign policy focus is shifting away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to the Asia Pacific region. How much of this trip is also aimed at sending a message to China that the United States can serve as a counterweight in this region?

SECRETARY CLINTON: This trip is not about anything other than the potential for American engagement to support the reformers inside of the country. And we have no concerns about Burma having good relations with China. They share a long border; it’s a big neighbor that you have to figure out how to get along with. That is not anything that we have an interest in or an objection to.

I think what President Obama was saying is that, given our history, we have been a Pacific power, a resident power. We liberated the Pacific. We worked to help the South Koreans withstand the brutal assault from the North. We have been in this region. But certainly over the last 10 years, because of our preoccupations with Iraq, with Afghanistan, there were doubts in the region that maybe we were no longer going to be paying attention, that we weren’t going to play the role that historically we have played. And it was important for us to clearly, unequivocally, state we are and we will be, far, far into the future, a Pacific power.

QUESTION: Do you worry that if the officials here, if the government here doesn’t start to enact the type of reforms that they have said they will, this will ultimately become a foreign policy blemish, this trip?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t, because, first of all, we have followed the lead of the people that are at the forefront of the struggle for democracy here. And I don’t see how we could have said, “Well, you’re on your own. Yes, we hear you, but we’re not responding.” That’s not a way a responsible nation such as ours acts. And ultimately, it is not the Americans’ decision. It is the decision of the leadership of this current government. The test is really theirs, and we’re going to do everything we can to encourage them to make the right decisions, but ultimately they have to bear the praise or the condemnation. And our goal is to assist those who are trying to be reformers within the government and those on the outside who have so long believed in a democratic future.

QUESTION: I just want to do a quick international wraparound. Pakistan – what is your concern right now in terms of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan given what happened there? Are you concerned that it will further harm a very complicated relationship already?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s a terrible, tragic incident that we deeply regret and have communicated that to every level of the Government in Pakistan. The fact is we have some similar interests in making sure that extremism is pushed back, that the threats to Pakistanis, the threats across the border in Afghanistan, the threats to our troops, and even the threats beyond the borders, because of the safe havens for extremists, are dealt with. And I don’t think that changes because we have a problem arising from what everyone admits was a deeply tragic incident.

QUESTION: And just quickly, two more quick questions. Iran – you condemned what happened there. Is the United States thinking about taking any punitive measures against Iran at this point?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve announced additional sanctions, as the EU has as well. And we’re going to continue to keep as much of an international coalition to condemn Iran and sanction Iran as we can. Because remember, if it’s just the United States and Europe, that is not sufficient. What was very significant about what we achieved early in the Administration was to get China and Russia to sign on to sanctions. China is very reliant on Iranian gas and oil. I think we are going to do everything possible to tighten the screws on the Iranian regime, because their provocative actions – whether it’s attacking the Embassy of the United Kingdom or trying to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador – are deeply troubling to us.

QUESTION: Finally, as we cap off this historic week, I wonder if you could reflect a bit on your own unique path. As you look back at everything that you have done, what do you think at this point is your greatest achievement?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I don’t think like that. I have to confess I live – I try to live in the moment because there is so much that is going on every second. And this trip here to test the democratic movement and see whether it’s real or not is such a great privilege for me to represent my country and to try to do what we possibly can to make this reform real. We’re just going to get up every day and go to bat and try to advance America’s interests and values, and sometimes we get on base, sometimes we even hit a home run, sometimes we strike out. (Laughter.) So it’s a kind of daily challenge that I’m just trying to manage, and maybe when I’m finished with the job, I’ll look back and be able to answer your question.

QUESTION: I think I’m getting (inaudible).


QUESTION: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Great to talk to you.

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Everywhere she goes, Mme. Secretary’s final event before leaving is a meet-and-greet with American Embassy staff and families.  This visit was no different.  She is always appreciative of the increased workload  embassy personnel shoulder in order for her visits to run safely and smoothly.  While we have no transcript of her remarks at the moment , we do have a few adorable pictures.  MSNBC is reporting that she is now wheels up for home.  It has been an historic, remarkable journey.  Safe home, Mme. Secretary.

This post is dedicated to my friend Harris who also wore casts recently, although Mme. Secretary did not have the opportunity to sign his.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, talks with 3-year-old Toby Webster-Main as she meets with employees and their families at the US Embassy.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signs 3-year-old Toby Webster-Main's cast as she meets with employees and their families at the U.S. Embassy in Yangon December 2, 2011. Clinton arrived on Wednesday on the first visit to the Southeast Asian country by a U.S. secretary of state since 1955. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool (MYANMAR - Tags: POLITICS)

Updated December 5:  Here are her words.


Meets with Staff and Families of Embassy Rangoon


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

Well, good afternoon. And Mingalaba. (Laughter.) I am delighted to be here in one of our new Embassy buildings on an old site where people have been working on behalf of the United States and our relationship here for many years. I want to thank Chargé Michael Thurston, DCM Eleanor Nagy, the whole Embassy team, all of you, including those who came from other posts to help work toward and implement this visit, because obviously, it is historic, first time in 55 years that our Secretary of State has visited.

I also want to thank you for what I know are very challenging environmental conditions when it comes to the work that you do every single day on behalf of this relationship. I so appreciate each and every one of you, because without you we could not be trying to represent American interests and American values at a time when it’s particularly important to reach out to people throughout the country to let them know how much we support democracy, how much we support an end to all of the ethnic conflicts, how much we support civil society and so much else. Because of your efforts, I did have a chance to meet with representatives from Burma’s ethnic minority groups, as well as civil society, and to hear firsthand about the challenges that they and you face.

I want to say a special word of thanks to your management team led by Eric Lindberg and your press team led by Adrienne Nutzman for their extra efforts. They went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that every site had reliable electricity and lights by providing backup generators. They also obtained unprecedented cooperation with the government, getting all kinds of support from visas to cars to even an additional internet bandwidth so that the journalists who travel with me and the news crews could do their live feeds. I’m also grateful to Doug Sonnek and the entire political econ team for their tireless work with my staff.

I thought that the meetings that I had in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday were promising, encouraging signs of commitment to democratization. The dinner and meeting that I had with Aung San Suu Kyi were very gratifying and challenging because we know how much she represents not only to people here but people around the world. And her determination is so admirable, and we will continue working to support democracy and human rights and justice here.

And I also want to thank you because with this visit will come a lot of follow-up work. If it’s just a visit, then I will be disappointed. But if it’s the beginning of a principled engagement that once again brings our two governments closer together and therefore creates space for the people of both of our countries, then I will think we have made a good first step. I think the government heard our message that we were prepared to begin a new chapter in the relationship if it took steps to free all political prisoners, to reconcile the longstanding conflicts with ethnic nationalities, to hold elections that are free, fair, and credible, and to take other steps along the path of democratic reform.

So we will press the government to follow through on those commitments, and we will also look for ways to continue bringing our two nations closer together. The American Center, which provides uncensored access to the world’s media, serves 4,000 people a week. Working to strengthen civil society or with the ethnic minorities through our training seminars or our voluntary small grants programs are lifelines for people. Ensuring that the $85 million the United States donated toward recovery from Cyclone Nargis, the continuation of these programs in the Dry Zone, are important investments in the humanitarian needs.

And I especially appreciate the work that our locally employed staff do. I know it’s not been always easy to work for the American Embassy, but I want you to know that we greatly appreciate your commitment, because we do think it’s not only about supporting our American team, but it’s about supporting your country and supporting the aspirations of your people. And I want to thank all of the Embassy families here today — husbands, wives, children, partners. And I was told about a young man; I think Toby is his name. He’s three years old, and he has an enormous cast on. So I hope he recovers quickly.

So again, let me express my deep appreciation. We are very grateful to you. And although it’s been, now, I guess, 56 years since a Secretary of State last visited, I trust it will not be that long in the future, because we will see progress and we will be able to demonstrate that progress by a series of high-level meetings that will demonstrate the engagement that we are pursuing. So with that, let me just come by and shake your hands and thank you personally, and especially thank you for this very important work that you do every day. Thank you all. (Applause.)


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Interview With Kim Ghattas of BBC


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for talking to the BBC.


QUESTION: As usual, we’re very delighted to be here with you in Burma. It’s very special for the BBC to be in the country.

I wanted to start by asking you about your meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. You’ve said that she is an inspiration to you. She has talked about the fact that she’s read your book. What was it like? What did it feel like when you finally came face to face?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Kim, it felt very familiar, and perhaps because I certainly have followed her over the years and have communicated with her directly and indirectly. So it was like seeing a friend you hadn’t seen for a very long time even though it was our first meeting. And it was also incredibly emotional and gratifying to see her free from the many years of house arrest and to see her once again leading her party and standing for elections in this new democratic process they are trying to put into place. So it was, for me, a great honor and a delight to spend time with her.

QUESTION: She sounded quite positive, cautiously so perhaps, but positive about the path towards reform that this country seems to be embarking on. Are you on the same page?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s important for those of us on the outside, whether we’re in government or in an NGO or a human rights activist, to appreciate how it looks from the inside. And certainly, her perspective is there are signs of change, that there is a rhetorical commitment to reform. I think it’s very wise of her to take advantage of that, to do everything she can to support it because, as in any transition, as this one could very well be, there are those who are pushing reform, and there are those who are dead set against it, and then there are probably the most people in the middle trying to gauge which way they should jump. So anything that can be done which legitimates the reformist tendencies should be, in her view, and I agree with this, validated and encouraged. But at the same time, you have to see continuing actions. It’s not enough just to give a speech or to do a few things. There has to be a momentum behind reform, and we’re waiting and watching for that.

QUESTION: You’re obviously coordinating quite closely with Aung San Suu Kyi in terms of America’s own engagement, reengagement with Burma. Do you run the risk that you’re basing your whole policy just on one person?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course we’re not. We are closely coordinating with her, but with many others. We’ve had high-level visits to Burma for nearly two and a half years, because when I became Secretary of State, I said we needed a Burma review, that I wasn’t satisfied with what our policy had produced, which was, frankly, not very much.

And in the course of the last two and a half years, we’ve had more than 20 high-level visits. And whether it’s our Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell or our Special Representative Derek Mitchell, they’ve met people across society – a lot of the representatives of the ethnic nationalities, a lot of civil society members, a lot of government members. So we’ve had a good sense of where people were.

So, yes, of course, it was critical that we closely coordinated with Aung San Suu Kyi, but she was not the only person we were working with. And uniformly led by her, we were encouraged to engage. And as she said publicly, she appreciated what the United States was doing, and we all hope that it can continue.

QUESTION: She said that she will run in the parliamentary by-elections that are coming in the next few months. Do you think that she runs the risks of being absorbed by the system? Is it perhaps better for her to continue leading the call for reform from the outside?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, that’s her decision, and I totally respect what she has decided. And I think from her perspective, it’s important to validate the political process. And the only way to do that is to ensure there is as much participation as possible. Her deciding to run sends a very important signal to others as well that this is worth doing. Because if all the people who have a deep, abiding commitment to democracy decided it was better to stay on the sidelines – because after all, getting involved in politics anywhere is a messy business, as I know from my own experience – then you would leave that to perhaps those whose commitment to reform and democracy are not as deep as they should be.

I think as a member – an elected member of parliament, she would have an important role to play, because she’s the one who has read deeply and thought deeply about how do you actually do this. And when I was meeting with members and leaders of the parliament, it was very clear they’re seeking advice. They wanted all kinds of ideas about how do you run an elected body. And so I think she is following through on what she believes to be her responsibility to the future.

QUESTION: Did you give her political advice about how to run?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, she, I think, is more than capable of doing that on her own, but we did discuss how challenging the political process can be.

QUESTION: Now, you had other meetings here in the country up in the capital in Nay Pyi Taw. You met with the country’s civilian president, Thein Sein. He’s a former junta leader. What were your impressions of him? Because you did come here to try to gauge his intentions. Is he really serious about reforming? What were your impressions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that certainly what I heard from him and what I heard from all of the leaders that I met with in Nay Pyi Taw was a stated commitment to continue the reform process. That’s obviously a first and important step, but it can’t end there; there has to be a series of actions that create a momentum toward democracy that cannot be reversed or undermined.

And I had the impression in speaking with all of the leaders that they’re well aware of the tensions within their own government about how far to go, how fast to go. That’s not unusual. But what I was reminded of is that we have experience in Latin America and in Asia, even in Africa, where military leaders transition into civilian leaders, and then create a democratic process which is left for those who come after them. That’s the hope that I think we all share.

QUESTION: Well, when you, let’s say, looked into his eyes, did you see a real intention for reform?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t speculate on matters like that. I judge people by their actions, and there have been some promising actions, but there needs to be a lot more.

QUESTION: Because indeed, as you said, there are those who are perhaps sitting on the fence, and you’re hoping that your visit will encourage the reformers, reinforce their hands, but also encourage others to join the camp of the reformers. That is the hope. The risk, of course, is that your visit might give legitimacy to a government that is desperately seeking it, and then when you leave, who knows what might happen on the ground. Are you worried about that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can’t predict what’s going to happen, but I think it certainly is important for the United States to be on the side of democratic reform, and when there is such an opening, as we see here, to demonstrate what the engagement might lead to on behalf of investment in the country and the like.

I was struck by how everyone I met with from civil society representing the ethnic nationalities were all so welcoming of engagement. I mean, people who – and it’s not just whom I met, but the stories and reports I’ve received from all of my team, people who had just gotten out of prison who said, “Thank you so much for engaging.” Well, how can we have less of a willingness to try to move this forward than the people inside the country who have suffered because of the repression? So I think it certainly is the right thing to do, but we’re not making any long-term commitment. This is a first date, not a marriage, and we’ll see where it leads.

QUESTION: So where are we going next? North Korea? Cuba?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I think that if they ever had a leader who did things like begin releasing political prisoners and – on a wide scale and set up a system for elections and the like, then we’d think about it. But right now, we’re focused on what we could see happening here.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for talking to the BBC.


QUESTION: Thank you.

Interview With Michele Kelemen of NPR


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

QUESTION: I want to ask you first about just being at the house, Aung San Suu Kyi’s house, where she spent so much time under house arrest. How did it feel for you?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in one way, it was familiar to me because I had seen pictures of it over so many years, and friends of mine who have had a chance to visit with her have, of course, described the house. On the other hand, it was an overwhelming personal experience for me, because I’ve admired her for so long, and to see where she was unjustly imprisoned, where she had her unfortunate experience of really spending a lot of time alone, which was difficult, but also gave her the chance to think deeply about what she hoped to see for her country.

Last night at dinner, I was talking to her about my long conversation with Nelson Mandela and how he, looking back, had realized that all those very lonely days and nights in prison for him helped him really summon the strength that he – and of course, I feel the same way about her, that she sacrificed so much. And now, she has perhaps another chance to try to see the democracy that she’s believed in and struggled for and sacrificed for come to reality.

QUESTION: She’s now making this transition from democracy activist to politician, running for elections. Have you given her some advice on what politics is all about?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I think she certainly understands that it’s a rough-and-tumble experience, no matter where one is. But we did talk about the difficulties of not only standing for election, but being elected and having to make compromises. And that would be true in any political process. Democracy really has to be constantly oiled by compromise, and a lot of people think that somehow is less than principled. But if you look at it from a historic perspective, people come into elective offices with many different experiences and ideologies, and you have to work together. She’s fully aware of all of that, but I think it will still be something quite new and challenging for her.

QUESTION: She’s really been guiding, in a way, this step-by-step U.S. rapprochement with Myanmar, and I wonder if you think – did she give you a sense that you guys have gone far enough or did she want you to do more, for instance, exchange ambassadors?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think she has been very helpful to us as we have designed our engagement, but continues to support the approach we’re taking, as she said publicly in her house today. And we’ve been very clear that we have to see further steps by the government in order to move again. And she has expressed her confidence in how we are proceeding. Obviously, we both want to see significant steps taken by the government, starting with the release of all political prisoners, before we are able to do any more.

But it’s also the testing of the sincerity and seriousness of the new leadership, which is important for her to know, because they are not releasing prisoners for us. They’re releasing it for their own internal decision-making, because they want to be on this path. So that’s helped her a lot about how they intend to proceed, which is on an important piece of information.

QUESTION: Now you’ve met Thein Sein, the president. She seemed to have confidence enough in him, but do you think he can deliver? I mean, he has a government that has a lot of people in that don’t like what he’s doing.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can’t speak for her. She is the one who has to make her own assessments. But we’re going to be watching. That’s – our measurement is what actually happens – not what is promised or not what is intended, but whether it’s delivered. And we discussed at some length, when I met with him at Nay Pyi Taw, what the next steps needed to be. And there are a lot of small steps that have to be taken that are of significance, but – releasing all of the prisoners, setting a date for the elections, and ensuring that they are free, fair, and credible, having a really comprehensive, well-designed effort to resolve the ethnic conflicts – those are three very big steps that we think have to be taken before we can further engage on a range of issues that we’d be willing to discuss.

QUESTION: I just have to ask you one question about Nay Pyi Taw. What were your impressions about this place? I mean, here in Rangoon, it’s a lively city, but up there, it’s just nobody there. Are you worried that they’re just too isolated from reality?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know about that. But it’s like a lot of these capital cities that get built in green space areas far from where they used to be. I’ve seen it in several countries around the world, and it always gives you a surreal impression, like is this a set; is it going to be here when I come back tomorrow? But they obviously invested a lot of money and effort in designing their government buildings. They’re looking to host a series of events of regional significance there over the next few years. So as for the business of the government, apparently it’s going to be done, but it’s not a bustling, lively city like Rangoon is, for sure.

QUESTION: So you think Aung San Suu Kyi will manage to live there or work there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I think she is disciplined, determined, and they say that – nice meeting with me, (inaudible) when we get there.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time.


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Press Availability in Rangoon, Burma

Press Availability

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me begin by saying that as the first American Secretary of State to visit here in over 50 years, I am delighted to have a chance to reflect on my visit and what we would like to see going forward. Now, before I arrived, I was well aware that Americans have long known this country as a place of both beauty and tragedy. Our imaginations have been seized by golden pagodas, saffron-clad monks, but also by the very difficult lives and dignified struggles that the people have endured, which have tugged at our conscience. I came here because we believe that the new reforms raise prospects of change, and we wanted to test that for ourselves.

Yesterday in Nay Pyi Taw, I had the opportunity to meet with senior government officials, including the president, the foreign minister, other key ministers, and leading members of parliament. In our discussions, I encouraged them to continue moving along the path of reform, and that is a path that would require releasing all political prisoners; halting hostilities in ethnic areas and seeking a true political settlement; broadening the space for political and civic activity; fully implementing legislation protecting universal freedoms of assembly, speech, and association. And I carried those thoughts forward in my meetings here today.

I was very pleased that finally, last evening, I had the honor to meet Aung San Suu Kyi and to convey the well wishes and support of the American people who admire her deeply. 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. This morning, she told me she is encouraged by the attitude of the new government, which has allowed the opportunity, finally, for the National League for Democracy, her party, to reregister and then participate in the political process. She is, as she has announced, determined to reenter the political arena. We share her eagerness to see all political parties allowed to open offices throughout the country, to enfranchise every citizen and to ensure that the upcoming elections are free, fair, and credible in the eyes of the people.

Now, I think it’s fair to say that although Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer under house arrest, more than her – more than 1,000 of her fellow citizens remain imprisoned because of their political beliefs and actions, and millions more continue to be denied their universal rights. We agreed that an important test of the government-stated commitment to reform and change will be the unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience.

We also discussed national reconciliation, which remains a defining challenge, as it has been since independence. There can be no true peace or justice until it is shared by everyone in every part of this beautiful, diverse country. And while there has been some progress in political and social matters, particularly here in Rangoon, terrible violence continues elsewhere, especially in some of the ethnic nationality areas, which, in addition to the continuing conflicts, suffer from unacceptably high rates of poverty, disease, and illiteracy, and from the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, which I raised directly with the government yesterday.

Now, when you look at the diversity of this country, it is a very great strength. The followers of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, other religions over a hundred different ethnic groups with their own distinct languages and cultures makes for a rich culture that really is in keeping with what we’re seeing in the 21st century. And therefore, we want to call again for everyone to be given the rights to which they are entitled. I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of some of the ethnic nationalities as well as civil society. They spoke eloquently of the challenges they face, but also the opportunities that they see. They also very much welcomed American engagement and said that they hoped it could continue in some very specific ways.

This afternoon, I’m pleased to announce we will take a number of steps to demonstrate our commitment to the people. These are in addition to the more formal government-to-government actions that I announced yesterday in Nay Pyi Taw. First, we will increase assistance to civil society organizations that provide microcredit lending, healthcare, and other critical needs throughout the country, particularly in the ethnic nationality areas. Second, we will launch a people-to-people exchange program that will include a substantial English language teaching initiative in partnership with ASEAN and the East-West Center. Third, we will work with partners here on the ground to provide assistance to citizens who suffer from the worst consequences of internal conflict, especially land mine victims. Fourth, we will be supporting the work of American universities and foundations to increase academic exchanges and collaboration on health, governance, and other matters.

Now, as I said yesterday, and I will repeat today, we are prepared to go further if the reforms maintain momentum. But history teaches us to be cautious. We know that there have been serious setbacks and grave disappointments over the last decades. And we want to see a sustainable reform effort that produces real results on behalf of the democratization and the economic opening of Burma. So I will once again reiterate to the leaders that the United States is prepared to walk this path of reform with you if you choose to keep moving in that direction. Reformers both inside and outside of the government will have our support, and it will increase as we see actions taken that will further the hopes and aspirations of the people for a better future. So I am cautiously hopeful, and certainly, on behalf of the American people, very committed to helping this country, which deserves to play a very important role in the Asia Pacific, have a chance to do so.

So with that, I will take your questions.

MODERATOR: We have time for two today. First one is from AFP, Shaun Tandon.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Just to follow up on a couple of points that you made in your remarks, you mentioned Aung San Suu Kyi entering the political process. You have, of course, been in the political arena yourself. What sort of insights have you given to her? And also, on the issue of national reconciliation, not so long ago, you said that there is a need for a UN-backed Commission of Inquiry to try to have accountability in Burma/Myanmar. With the changes that you’re seeing, is this effectively on the backburner, or does the United States still (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know if you could hear Shaun’s question because about halfway through, his microphone cut out. But he asked me about Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to enter the political arena, or I should say reenter the political arena, and what I’m – my think about, and also whether the United States still supports a Commission of Inquiry.

Well, first, with respect to her decision, which is, of course, hers and hers alone, I think that she has been advocating for a political process that was open and inclusive, and believes that now that the opportunity presents itself, she needs to participate. I understand completely why she would decide to do so on behalf of herself, on behalf of her party, but most importantly on behalf of democracy throughout her country. We talked last night about the ups and downs and the slings and arrows of political participation anywhere in the world, and the challenges that a new democracy or a new democratic process particularly will face because the rules are being written as you engage. But I’m very supportive of the decision that she feels was right for her, right to pursue. I think she’d be an excellent member of the new parliament.

I was impressed, in meeting with members of both the upper and the lower house yesterday, how eager they are to have exchanges and understand their responsibilities as parliamentary members. And I know that Aung San Suu Kyi, who’s read deeply and fought long and hard about what it takes to really establish democracy in a sustainable way, would be an excellent addition to their deliberations.

With regard to the Commission of Inquiry, we always and consistently support accountability for human rights violations, and we are looking for ways to support the changes that are underway here because we hope that there will be an internal mechanism accountability. For example, the establishment of a human rights commission is an important first step, and the government has taken that first step. We encouraged the government to draw on international expertise to ensure the impartiality and the credibility of their own human rights commission.

But there are different decisions that we’ll confront, both the government and the opposition, because they can look to different forms of accountability in different places that have undergone transitions, some even from military government to an open democratic one. So we are going to support the principle of accountability, and the appropriate mechanism to ensure justice and accountability will considered – will be considered, but I think it’s important to try to give the new government and the opposition a chance to demonstrate they have their own approach toward achieving that.

MODERATOR: And last question from Than Zaw Tun from Eleven Media

QUESTION: Hello. Secretary Clinton, (inaudible) Myanmar. During your trip to Myanmar, you have met president of Burma and speaker of (inaudible) for Aung San Suu Kyi. After meeting with them, is there any chance to the (inaudible) of Myanmar in (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you, and it’s wonderful to be asked a question by a member of the media from here.

What we have outlined for the government are a series of actions we would like to see taken, and what I have said in my private meetings and publicly is that we will match action for action. And if there is enough progress, obviously, we will be considering lifting sanctions. But as I said before, we’re still at the very early stages of this dialogue and engagement that I’ve worked hard to establish over the past two years, and it couldn’t have come to fruition if the government hadn’t begun to take the steps that it is taking.

So although we’ve seen encouraging signs of progress, we are, frankly, testing this commitment. We want to know that it’s real and sustainable, because it’s going to take more than a few leaders, even at the top levels of government. It’s going to take a real change in attitude and approach throughout the government and the bureaucracy. So we will continue to talk to senior government officials, to members of civil society, opposition leaders, as I’ve done over the last two years. And we’ll be constantly doing that to get a readout from them as to what they see happening.

But I was very clear with the government that if we see enough progress, we would be prepared to begin to lift sanctions. But right now, we’re not ready to discuss that because we obviously are only starting our engagement, and we want to see all political prisoners released, we want to see a serious effort at peace and reconciliation, we want to see dates set for the election, and then we will be very open to matching those actions with our own. And it was interesting, in our meetings with a lot of the people that I’ve talked with – and not just our meetings over the last two days but our meetings that many of our high officials have had over the last two years – there is a recognition that lifting sanctions would benefit the economy, but there needs to be some economic reforms along with the political reforms so that the benefits would actually flow to a broad-based group of people and not just to a very few.

So there’s work ahead. As some of you may have heard Aung San Suu Kyi say when we were together at her house, she supports the World Bank coming in and coming up with an assessment of what could be done to assist in the economic reform and development aid and so much else. So I’m very committed to do everything I can to support what is going on here, but we have to see the rhetoric translate into concrete steps.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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