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Secretary Clinton: December 2011 » Remarks With Aung San Suu Kyi

Remarks With Aung San Suu Kyi


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Aung San Suu Kyi’s Residence
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

MS. KYI: Are we all settled? I’d like to say that it’s a great pleasure and a privilege for us – can you hear me —


MS. KYI: — to welcome Secretary Clinton to my country and to my home. It’s, I think, a historical moment for both our countries because we hope that from this meeting, we will be able to proceed to us renewing the ties of friendship and understanding that bound our countries together since independence. There has been times when that tie has weakened, but I don’t think it was ever really broken. And we hope that from now on, not only will the understanding and friendship between our two countries be reestablished and strengthened, but we will bring in also other members of the international community who share our commitment to human dignity, to peace, to democratic institutions, and to sustainable development.

We are so happy that Secretary Clinton had very good meetings at Nay Pyi Taw, and we are happy with the way in which the United States is engaging with us. It is through engagement that we hope to promote the process of democratization. Because of this engagement, I think our way ahead will be clearer, and we will be able to trust that the process of democratization will go forward. For this, we do need the help not just of the United States, but of other members of the international community. We need capacity-building in Burma, we need technical assistance, we are very eager that the time will come soon when the World Bank can send in an assessment team to find out what it is that our country really needs.

Before we decide what steps to take, we have to find out what our greatest needs are. And of course, two of the greatest needs of this country are rule of law and a cessation to civil war. All hostilities must cease within this country as soon as possible. That will really build up ethnic harmony and peace and a union that is prosperous and stable.

Now, when I say rule of law, I must mention that rule of law is essential to prevent more prisoner – political prisoners from appearing in Burma. First of all, we need all those who are still in prison to be released, and we need to ensure that no more are arrested in future for their beliefs. This is why we put so much emphasis on rule of law, and I am confident that the United States and our other friends will help us in our endeavors to bring rule of law to this country, and also in our endeavors to help our country to develop its educational and health facilities, which are the basic needs of all our peoples.

Whatever we do in the predominantly Burmese areas, we hope to be matched by similar programs and projects in the ethnic nationality areas, because we are a union of many peoples. And in a union of many peoples, there must be equality, there must be consideration for those who are in gracious need. And to that end, we look to our friends from all over the world to help us to meet the needs of the people of our country.

I am very confident that if we all work together – and by “we,” I mean the Government of Burma, the opposition in Burma, our friends from the United States and all over the world who are committed to the same values – if we go forward together, I am confident that there will be no turning back from the road towards democracy. We are not on that road yet, but we hope to get there as soon as possible with the help and understanding of our friends.

I was very pleased to read today that the Chinese foreign ministry said – put out a statement welcoming the engagement of the United States and Burma. This shows that we have the support of the whole world. And I’m particularly pleased because we hope to maintain good, friendly relations with China, our very close neighbor – and not just with China, but with the rest of the world.

Now I think I must give time to Secretary Clinton, who you’re all wishing to hear, because we are rather behind schedule.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to begin by not only thanking you for your hospitality and welcoming us all here to your home today, but for your steadfast and very clear leadership of the opposition and of many here in Burma whose voices would not otherwise be heard, including ethnic nationalities.

About the way forward, democracy is the goal. That has been the goal from the very beginning. And yet we know that it has been a long, very difficult path that has been followed. We do see openings today that, as Aung San Suu Kyi just said, give us some grounds for encouragement. My visit, both here with members of the opposition as well as representatives of civil society and the ethnic nationalities, in concert with my visit with government officials yesterday, is intended to explore the path forward.

The United States wants to be a partner with Burma. We want to work with you as you further democratization, as you release all political prisoners, as you begin the difficult but necessary process of ending the ethnic conflicts that have gone on far too long, as you hold elections that are free, fair, and credible. But we also, because of our close work with you, know that there’s much work to be done to build the capacity of the government. This is going to be an area that we will continue to consult closely with you to see what kind, as you said, technical assistance might be offered. The rule of law is essential in any democracy, and we will also look for ways we can work to further that.

But let me conclude by underscoring that you have been an inspiration, but I know you feel that you are standing for all the people of your country who deserve the same rights and freedoms of people everywhere. The people have been courageous and strong in the face of great difficulty over too many years. We want to see this country take its rightful place in the world. We want to see every child here given the chance for a good education, for the healthcare that he or she needs, for a job that will support a family, for development not only in the cities, but in the rural areas as well.

So we hold the dream that you have so long represented to many of us around the world, and we want to be a partner with you, with the new government, and with all people of goodwill who want finally to see the future that is right there waiting realized for every single citizen.

So thank you again for your gracious hospitality, but thank you even more for your leadership and your strong partnership with the United States.

MS. KYI: I would like to thank – end with a last note of thanks, a word of thanks to President Obama and to the United States of America for working so closely with us throughout, consulting us along each step of the way, and for the careful and collaborated way in which they are approaching engagement in this country. This will be the beginning of a new future for all of us, provided we can maintain it, and we hope to be able to do so.

Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.)

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Mme. Secretary’s day in Burma was a flurry of activity.  Long awaited, her meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi took place at the residence of the U.S. Chief of Mission in Yangon.    She also toured the centuries-old Shwedagon Pagoda there where she poured water on a statue of Buddha, a ritual meant to make one feel good,  placed flowers before another statue of Buddha,  and  rang an enormous bell for good luck.  In the capital, Nay Pyi Taw,  she met President Thein Sein and his wife Khin Khin Win as well as members of parliament, one of whom appears to have bowed to her quite deeply!

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Press Availability in Nay Pyi Taw, Burma

Press Availability

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Nay Pyi Taw, Burma
December 1, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, and – mingalaba, is that how you say it? Yeah? How?QUESTION: Mingalaba.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Mingalaba. Thank you.

Let me start by saying that I want to emphasize that while I may be the first United States Secretary of State to visit in over a half century, our two nations are far from strangers. We’ve had a long history together, from the earliest American missionaries to generations of traders and merchants to the shared sacrifices of World War Two. The United States was among the first to recognize this country’s independence, and we have welcomed the many contributions of Burmese Americans to our own culture and prosperity. And Americans from all walks of life are following closely the events here.

So I come with a great deal of interest and awareness of what is happening. And on behalf of my country and President Obama, I came to assess whether the time is right for a new chapter in our shared history. Today, I met with President Thein Sein, his foreign minister, other senior ministers, and the speakers and members of parliament in both houses. We had candid, productive conversations about the steps taken so far, and the path ahead for reform.

Tomorrow, I will be meeting with ethnic minority groups and civil society. I will be meeting tonight and tomorrow with Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the political opposition.

President Thein Sein has taken the first steps toward a long-awaited opening. His government has eased some restrictions on the media and civil society, opened a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, rewritten election and labor laws, and released 200 prisoners of conscience. The president told me he seeks to build on these steps, and I assured him that these reforms have our support. I also told him that while the measures already taken may be unprecedented and certainly welcome, they are just a beginning. It is encouraging that political prisoners have been released, but over a thousand are still not free. Let me say publicly what I said privately earlier today. No person in any country should be detained for exercising universal freedoms of expression, assembly, and conscience.

It is also encouraging that Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to take part in the political process. But that, too, will not be sufficient unless all political parties can open offices throughout the country and compete in free, fair, and credible elections. We welcome initial steps from the government to reduce ethnic tensions and hostilities. But as long as terrible violence continues in some of the world’s longest-running internal conflicts, it will be difficult to begin a new chapter.

This country’s diversity, its dozens of ethnic groups and languages, its shrines, pagodas, mosques, and churches should be a source of strength in the 21st century. And I urged the president to allow international humanitarian groups, human rights monitors and journalists access to conflict zones.

National reconciliation remains a defining challenge, and more needs to be done to address the root causes of conflict and to advance an inclusive dialogue that will finally bring peace to all of the people. We discussed these and many other challenges ahead, including the need to combat illegal trafficking in persons, weapons, and drugs. And I was very frank in stating that better relations with the United States will only be possible if the entire government respects the international consensus against the spread of nuclear weapons. We look to the government to fully implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and we support the government’s stated determination to sever military ties with North Korea.

In each of my meetings, leaders assured me that progress would continue and broaden. And as it does, the United States will actively support those, both inside and outside of government, who genuinely seek reform. For decades, the choices of this country’s leaders kept it apart from the global economy and the community of nations. Today, the United States is prepared to respond to reforms with measured steps to lessen the isolation and to help improve the lives of its citizens. That includes an invitation to join neighboring countries as an observer in the Lower Mekong Initiative. We have agreed to IMF and World Bank assessment missions to begin studying the needs on the ground for development, particularly in rural areas, and poverty reduction.

We discussed loosening restrictions on UNDP health and microfinance programs, pursuing education and training efforts, and resuming joint counter-narcotics missions. And just as the search for missing Americans once helped us repair relations with Vietnam, today we spoke about a new joint effort to recover the remains of hundreds of Americans lost here during World War II during the building of the Burma Road.

These are beginning steps, and we are prepared to go even further if reforms maintain momentum. In that spirit, we are discussing what it will take to upgrade diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors. Over time, this could become an important channel to air concerns, monitor and support progress, and build trust on both sides.

The last time an American Secretary of State came to Burma, it was John Foster Dulles, and this country was considered the jewel of Asia, a center of higher learning and the rice bowl of the region. In the last half century, other countries have raced ahead and turned East Asia into one of the world’s great centers of dynamic growth and opportunity. So the most consequential question facing this country, both leaders and citizens, is not your relationship with the United States or with any other nation. It is whether leaders will let their people live up to their God-given potential and claim their place at the heart of the 21st century, a Pacific century.

There is no guarantee how that question will be answered. If the question is not answered in a positive way, then once again, the people could be left behind. But if it is answered in a positive way, I think the potential is unlimited.

I’m told there is an old Burmese proverb which says, “When it rains, collect water.” Well, we don’t know yet if the path to democracy is irreversible, as one of the leaders told me today, if the opening of the economy will be considered a positive and moved quickly to achieve. So the question is not for me to answer. The question is for all of you, particularly leaders, to answer. But we owe it to nearly 60 million people who seek freedom, dignity, and opportunity to do all we can to make sure that question is answered positively.

President Obama spoke of flickers of progress. Well, we know from history that flickers can die out. They can even be stamped out. Or they can be ignited. It will be up to the leaders and the people to fan those flickers of progress into flames of freedom that light the path toward a better future. That and nothing less is what it will take for us to turn a solitary visit into a lasting partnership. As I told President Thein Sein earlier today, the United States is prepared to walk the path of reform with you if you choose to keep moving in that direction. And there’s no doubt that direction is the right one for the people.

I’ll be happy to take some questions.

MS. NULAND: We have time for four questions today. I guess the first one is The New York Times, Steve Myers.

QUESTION: Thanks, Toria. Madam Secretary, thank you. Sorry. Thank you, Madam Secretary. The – Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday said that she personally trusted the president but wasn’t sure about the views of others in the government. After your meetings today, do you share that view?

And in your discussions today, did you talk about a timetable for some of the reciprocal steps from both countries that you would like to see? Is this a matter of months or years? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Steve, we had a very substantive, serious, and candid, long discussion, both in the formal setting and then over lunch, between myself and President Thein Sein. He laid out a comprehensive vision of reform, reconciliation, and economic development for his country, including specifics such as the release of political prisoners, an inclusive political process, and free, fair, and credible bi-elections, a rigorous peace and reconciliation process to bring to an end some of the longest-standing conflicts anywhere in the world, and strong assurances regarding his country’s compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and their nonproliferation commitments with respect to North Korea.

I made it clear that he and those who support that vision which he laid out for me, both inside and outside of government, will have our support as they continue to make progress, and that the United States is willing to match actions with actions. We want to be a partner in this reform process, starting with the steps that I laid out today. I also told him that, based on my experience and my observation, I am well aware that he has people in his government who are very supportive of this reform agenda, and he has people who are worried about it or opposed to it, and he has people in the middle who are sitting on the fence, trying to make up their minds. What I hope is that our strong commitment, coupled with the willingness of the international community – particularly multinational organizations from the UN to the IMF to the World Bank and others – expressing our strong support for this path. And what it will mean in terms of delivering concrete benefits will give him extra support in the internal debates that are underway.

So I certainly believe that we now have a clear sense of what he is trying to achieve and how best we can support him. And let me add that, in my meetings with the foreign minister and the speakers of both the upper and the lower house, I heard the same things about the issues that had to be addressed in order for reform to continue. I wasn’t given specific dates, but I was certainly assured that actions would be taken on a regular and ongoing basis.

MS. NULAND: Next question, from Shwe Gin Maru (ph) of Myanmar Times.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam. I would like to know, do you think (inaudible) reaching with the new Government of Myanmar, and (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I thought that today was an excellent opportunity for me to both listen to officials in the government describe what their intentions are and the actions that they are planning to take and for them to hear from me on behalf of the United States how much we support this path of reform, how we expect to see additional steps taken on political prisoners, on peace and reconciliation, on the bi-elections, on the enforcement of the laws that have been passed, which are quite encouraging but need to be implemented. And I will certainly emphasize that if what I heard today is followed through on by the government, that meets the concerns that we have as to whether or not this is a serious and sincere effort. And we hope that it is.

MS. NULAND: Next question, Keith Johnson, Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you. China’s response to your visit and the U.S. reengagement in general has been one of concern. And in fact, they’ve spoken openly about a competition between the U.S. and China for inputs in Myanmar. Their state media just today warned that they will not accept their interests being stamped on here. And I wondered, just briefly, two things. Do you fear that U.S. reengagement could cause any sort of backlash with Beijing? And more broadly, countries like Myanmar in the region, what can the U.S. do to assuage countries like that? They’re sort of caught between these two titans of the new Pacific century.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s an important question, and it’s one that I addressed in all of my discussions. Our engagement here is rooted in our longstanding interest in seeking positive change. We have, as I said at the very beginning, a long history that has many positive aspects to it. But we have been dismayed by some of the actions of the past decades, and we are encouraged to see the changes that are taking place.

This is an interest that spans decades, that cuts across every political divide in the United States, because it’s a country that has both fascinated and worried Americans for many years. And we are not about opposing any other country; we’re about supporting this country. And we actually consult regularly with China about our engagements in the Asia Pacific region, including how we see events unfolding here. And we welcome – as I specifically told the president and the two speakers, we welcome positive, constructive relations between China and her neighbors. We think that’s in China’s interest as well as the neighborhood’s interest. We think that being friends with one doesn’t mean not being friends with others. So from our perspective, we are not viewing this in light of any competition with China. We’re viewing this on its merits as an opportunity for us to reengage here. And we think that that is a very open possibility. And that’s why I’m here to assess it for myself.

MS. NULAND: And the last question today, Fine Kin Zin Lay (ph) from The Voice.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) asking two questions. One question is: Do you see any probability for release all political prisoners? And the second question is: Did you discuss about sanctions with the president? Are there any probability to ease sanction, or never? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We discussed both of those issues at some length because, obviously, they are important subjects in our renewed dialogue.

With respect to political prisoners, we believe that any political prisoner anywhere should be released. One political prisoner is one too many, in our view. And we’re concerned about the continued detention of more than a thousand prisoners of conscience here. We welcome the release of the 200 political prisoners in October, and we have consistently called for and encouraged the release of all political prisoners. I did so again. And I made it clear that was an issue that would have to be resolved before we could take some of the steps that we would be willing to take because the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners is a key test of the government’s commitment to human rights and democracy and internal national reconciliation.

So we’re aware of the process that is followed and the constitutional provision that gives authority to the president. We know that for the release in October, the parliament agreed to support that. So I discussed it with the president and both speakers, and we are certainly hopeful that we will see such release of all prisoners in the near future.

With regard to sanctions, we’re in the early stages of our dialogue. And I want to state for the record that my visit today is the result of over two years of work on our behalf. We’ve had at least 20 high-level visits. We have Assistant Secretary Campbell, our former representative Scott Marciel. We’ve had a very active engagement by our chargé, and then we filled the position that the Congress created for a permanent special representative with Ambassador Derek Mitchell.

So for more than two years, ever since I asked that we do a review of our Burma policy in 2009, we have been reaching out, we’ve been trying to gather information, because we wanted to see change for the benefit of all of the people. And so we have been working toward this, and the reason that we were finally able to reach the decision that the president announced for me to visit is because of the steps that the government has taken.

We know more needs to be done, however, and we think that we have to wait to make sure that this commitment is real. So we’re not only talking to senior members of the government, but we’re talking to civil society members, we’re talking to members of the political opposition, we’re talking to representatives of ethnic minorities, because we want to be sure that we have as full a picture as possible.

So we’re not at the point yet that we can consider lifting sanctions that we have in place because of our ongoing concerns about policies that have to be reversed. But any steps that the government takes will be carefully considered and will be, as I said, matched because we want to see political and economic reform take hold. And I told the leadership that we will certainly consider the easing and elimination of sanctions as we go forward in this process together. And it has to be not theoretical or rhetorical. It has to be very real, on the ground, that can be evaluated. But we are open to that, and we are going to pursue many different avenues to demonstrate our continuing support for this path of reform.

MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks, everyone. Thank you all very much. Wonderful to have a chance to talk to you.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton(L) and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talk prior to dinner at the US Chief of Mission Residence in Rangoon, Myanmar, December 1, 2011. Clinton is traveling to the country on a two-day visit, the first by a US Secretary of State in more than 50 years. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Public Schedule for December 1, 2011

Public Schedule

Washington, DC
December 1, 2011


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Today,  at the State Department, Secretary Clinton hosted  a U.S. and European Union meeting on energy with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu,   E.U,  High Rep Catherine Ashton and Gunther Oettinger, E. U.  Commissioner of Energy.  She then participated in a high level U.S. – E.U. Summit at the White House.   Later in the day, she was wheels up for Asia again.  This time the destinations are South Korea and Burma.  What a ball of energy she is!

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Travel to the Republic of Korea and Burma

Press Statement

Mark C. Toner
Acting Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 23, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to the Republic of Korea and Burma, November 30 – December 2, 2011.

Secretary Clinton will travel to Busan, Republic of Korea November 30 to attend the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Secretary Clinton’s participation reflects the United States’ strong political commitment to development as key pillar of global security, prosperity, and democratic progress. The Busan Meeting represents a landmark opportunity for world leaders to take stock of recent changes in the development landscape and chart a new course for global cooperation. Her visit also underscores the breadth and depth of the U.S.-ROK partnership.

Secretary Clinton will then travel to Nay Pyi Taw and Rangoon, Burma, from November 30 – December 2. This historic trip will mark the first visit to Burma by a U.S. Secretary of State in over a half a century. Secretary Clinton will underscore the U.S. commitment to a policy of principled engagement and direct dialogue as part of our dual-track approach. She will register support for reforms that we have witnessed in recent months and discuss further reforms in key areas, as well as steps the U.S. can take to reinforce progress. She will consult with a broad and diverse group of civil society and ethnic minority leaders to gain their perspectives on developments in the country. Counselor Cheryl Mills, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma Derek Mitchell, and Policy Planning Director Jake Sullivan will accompany her.

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This is probably news to no one here by now, but here it is for the record from the Foreign Policy report.

Clinton to visit Burma next month

Top news: Hillary Clinton will visit Burma next month, the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State in more than 50 years. The announcement by President Barack Obama followed democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi announcement that she would run for parliament in this year’s elections.

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Earthquake in Burma

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 25, 2011

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I offer our sincere condolences for the loss of life and damage caused by the earthquake in Burma, near the borders with Thailand and Laos. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy.

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Release of Aung San Suu Kyi

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 13, 2010

Today I join with billions of people around the world to welcome the long-overdue release of Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi has endured enormous personal sacrifice in her peaceful struggle to bring democracy and human rights to Burma, including unjustified detention for most of the past twenty years. The Burmese regime has repeatedly rejected her offers to engage in dialogue and work together, trying instead to silence and isolate her. Through it all, Aung San Suu Kyi’s commitment to the Burmese people has not wavered.

The United States calls on Burma’s leaders to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi’s release is unconditional so that she may travel, associate with her fellow citizens, express her views, and participate in political activities without restriction. They should also immediately and unconditionally release all of Burma’s 2,100 political prisoners.

We urge Burma’s leaders to break from their repressive policies and begin an inclusive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and ethnic leaders towards national reconciliation and a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future.

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