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Old 11-09-2012, 07:28 AM  
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Obama set to visit Burma within a month.

In about a month the President continues the country's diplomatic pivot to eastern Asia by visiting with Burma.

Genuinely outstanding news for human rights activists, as Burma has been one of the most brutal oppressors of human rights and democracy and, honestly, just societal decency for most of our lifetimes.

I actually posted about Burma two years ago:

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There are few stories I follow more diligently than the international spread of democracy. But in this day of increasing technology which gives individuals the power of communicating better, and increasing one's knowledge of what the rest of the world possesses, governments also gain sophistication needed to fend off any assaults from their citizens, for good or bad.

In the case of Iran and especially Burma, bad. These are two countries starving for democracy that simply can't get it because those power won't give it up.

In Iran, you have people that have tried revolting against the government in the most democratic way possible: demonstrations and protests that involve Iranians of every walk of life AND BOTH GENDERS, while doing so without guns and weapons, and getting beaten down every time by the entrenched military government and the thugs they hire to terrorize their neighbors.

Burma is an even more hopeless cause, because the junta there will fire live rounds into crowds, imprison anybody that says the slightest thing against the government FOR DECADES, and they purposefully starve their population while shutting down the internet so they can't reach the outside world.

Both of these countries are international hostage situations, pure and simple. International opinion does not budge them. The options for these countries are seemingly hopeless.
There are a couple different directions you can take with governments this brutal: you can attempt to close off from them and promise not to open up to them until they reform, or you can take the far more successful route of opening up to them, deepening some ties with them to create some strings between you that you can pull at various times to reward pro-democratic reform. For decades the United States has preferred the former approach, but the Obama administration has opened up the latter approach since he took office.

The Obama administation has already sent Bill Richardson (in the very early days) and Hillary Clinton there, and Burma (its junta leaders have attempted to re-name the country Myanmar) has opened up considerably. They're still in the stone age compared to the Western world, but progress has been made that we haven't seen out of the junta, ever.

Applause to the President for sticking his neck out there and taking a dramatic chance at continuing this trend.

http://blogs.reuters.com/breakingvie...job-half-done/

O-Burma trip rewards reformists for job half done
By Wayne Arnold
November 9, 2012

Barack Obama’s planned trip to Myanmar this month risks rewarding the country’s rulers for a job half-done. The visit would justifiably herald recent reforms and cultivate a key ally as U.S. foreign policy pivots to Asia. But it is sure to antagonize China’s new leaders and could reduce pressure on Myanmar to make the tougher changes it still needs.

Though Obama will be the first serving U.S. president to visit, he may find the red carpet slightly worn. Since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited a year ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron, South Korea President Lee Myung-bak and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have all made the trek.

Still, the trip is fitting of historic change: to end 50 years of isolation, Myanmar has freed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi along with hundreds of political prisoners, lifted media censorship and held democratic elections.

The country’s economic reforms are equally profound. It ditched a fixed exchange rate in April and has just passed a new investment law tailored to foreign investors. The rules allow 100 percent-owned foreign ventures with no minimum capital in all but a few sensitive industries, according to law firm VDB Loi.

But Myanmar’s toughest reforms lie ahead. It has no independent judiciary; its military is guaranteed a quarter of parliamentary seats and its border areas are torn by ethnic strife. It needs effective land reform to stop property grabs and promote agricultural exports that don’t create Philippine-style rural peonage.

Obama may agree with President Thein Sein that Myanmar’s reform path is irreversible and feel pressure to leapfrog nations like Japan, which have already rushed in. Washington is also clearly eager to add Myanmar to its growing constellation of Asian allies.

But China’s new leaders won’t like such a high-profile visit to a country they view as their back door to Africa and the Gulf. So the U.S. needs to be certain who is in charge. Myanmar’s reforms were undertaken despite Western sanctions – not because of them – in part to escape China’s domination. Though U.S. restrictions remain on the books, Obama has suspended them. Endorsing Myanmar at this stage leaves him with mostly sticks, but few remaining carrots.
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Old 11-21-2012, 01:02 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by Literature View Post
Its editorials are often right-wing trash.
It shocks me that you think so. If only they had a non trashy conservative to write their editorials like David Brooks or, better yet, Andrew Sullivan.
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Old 11-21-2012, 01:03 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
It shocks me that you think so. If only they had a non trashy conservative to write their editorials like David Brooks or, better yet, Andrew Sullivan.
That'd be a start.
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Old 11-21-2012, 01:06 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Literature View Post
No he's not.
Well he didn't give anyone a gift set of his own speeches so maybe he's improving, but he's still a major embarrassment to those of us with more refined sensibilities.
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:52 AM   #49
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http://news.yahoo.com/myanmar-says-r...3Rpb25z;_ylv=3

Myanmar says it's ready to sign nuclear agreement
By MATTHEW PENNINGTON
Wed, Nov 21, 2012

..WASHINGTON (AP) — Little noticed in the warm glow of President Barack Obama's landmark visit to Myanmar was a significant concession that could shed light on whether that nation's powerful military pursued a clandestine nuclear weapons program, possibly with North Korea's help.

Myanmar announced it would sign an international agreement that would require it to declare all nuclear facilities and materials. Although it would be up to Myanmar to decide what to declare, it could provide some answers concerning its acquisition of dual-use machinery and its military cooperation with Pyongyang that the U.S. and other nations regard as suspect.

President Thein Sein's agreement to allow more scrutiny by U.N. nuclear inspectors suggests a willingness to go beyond democratic reforms that have improved relations with Washington and culminated in Obama's visit this week, the first by a U.S. president to the country also known as Burma.

David Albright and Andrea Stricker of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based nonproliferation group, said in an analysis it was a "remarkable decision."

"This latest move by Burma is extremely positive for its ongoing push for openness about the nuclear issue and for building confidence and transparency with the international community," they wrote.

However, there are also major doubts about how much Myanmar will divulge. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the most prominent voice in Congress on nonproliferation, said international concern would persist until Myanmar gives full disclosure of its relationship with Pyongyang.

After two decades of diplomatic isolation by the U.S., the Obama administration's active engagement with Myanmar has encouraged the former pariah regime into political reforms, reflected by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's election to parliament. Myanmar also agreed this week, after years of prodding, to open its notorious prisons to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

But until now, there has been little public indication of progress on security issues.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a visit last December that better U.S. relations with Myanmar would only be possible "if the entire government respects the international consensus against the spread of nuclear weapons."

Myanmar denies there's anything to worry about.

Last year, it declared it had halted plans to obtain a research reactor from Russia. That did little to allay worries of what might have happened under the radar. Anecdotal accounts suggest that around 2005, top leader Than Shwe had decided to seek North Korea's help on a nuclear program.

Separately, about six years ago, Myanmar acquired precision machinery from Germany, Switzerland and Singapore that defectors and some analysts concluded were part of a half-baked attempt to make equipment for enriching uranium, although other experts disputed that conclusion.

Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director-general at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the machinery, which could have nuclear or non-nuclear uses, was no smoking gun but raised questions. The end user certificates were signed by a head of Myanmar's Department of Atomic Energy.

Heinonen, now a senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said some countries had imposed restrictions on exports of special steels and other materials to Myanmar because of concerns they could be used for a nuclear program.

Lugar has voiced particular concern about Myanmar's possible nuclear ties with North Korea. Photos of a 2008 trip by Thura Shwe Mann — the Myanmar military's joint chief of staff, now parliament speaker — show him alongside Jon Pyong Ho, manager of North Korea's military industry and chief operational officer behind the secretive country's two underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

But the Obama administration has said the military trade between the two Asian nations appears to have been in small arms and missiles, itself in violation of current U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

According to the U.S. government, under a November 2008 accord the North agreed to help Myanmar build medium-range, liquid-fueled ballistic missiles. Two North Korean ships suspected to be heading to Myanmar with military cargoes in 2009 and 2011 were tracked by the U.S. Navy and turned around. And in July this year, even as the U.S. was easing investment restrictions on Myanmar, it sanctioned the country's primary arms manufacturer, saying North Korean experts were active at its facilities.

Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said Myanmar has taken "positive steps" toward severing the military ties with North Korea. He also welcomed Thein Sein's agreement to sign the additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency, announced on the eve of Obama's visit, saying it would bring Myanmar "into a nonproliferation regime that is important to the United States and the world."

Myanmar's current agreement with the IAEA requires little in terms of disclosure, and the government was unresponsive when the Vienna-based agency in late 2010 sought an inspection.

Albright and Stricker said Myanmar should answer questions the IAEA has about any past nuclear activities and the procurement of sensitive equipment. They also urged it to invite U.N. experts to visit the country and answer questions about past suspicious transfers and cooperation with North Korea.

But how quickly Myanmar moves to sign the protocol — it says it first needs parliament's approval — and then ratify it, remains to be seen, as does whether it discloses any useful information.

"At the moment Burma has already been asked in public what they have and they say 'nothing,' so the list provided to IAEA could be short or blank," said Robert Kelley, a former IAEA director who believes Myanmar has pursued a nuclear weapons program.

The military, which has dominated for five decades and also is heavily represented in Myanmar's fledgling parliament, is likely to oppose scrutiny of sensitive sites.

"The concern of the international community will not pause until full disclosure of the North Korea-Burma relationship is achieved," Lugar said.
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:54 AM   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
http://news.yahoo.com/myanmar-says-r...3Rpb25z;_ylv=3

Myanmar says it's ready to sign nuclear agreement
By MATTHEW PENNINGTON
Wed, Nov 21, 2012

This is all very good news. Burma had until now been one of North Korea's key military allies.
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:57 AM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FD View Post
This is all very good news. Burma had until now been one of North Korea's key military allies.
I agree, this is good news.

Cautious optimism abounds.
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Old 11-23-2012, 11:12 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by FD View Post
This is all very good news. Burma had until now been one of North Korea's key military allies.
Key military allies? Other than buying weapons from NK, which Burma vowed to stop quite some time ago under pressure from SK and others in the west, what are they doing to help NK? I agree that it's a welcome bit of news in the sense that it potentially takes one of the customers of NK proliferation efforts out of the picture. It's a positive but I'm not sure how big of a positive it is.
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