Editorial: A high-water mark for Burma

Thein Sein’s White House visit caps an unprecedented round of diplomatic bridge-building and marks his country's return to international favour

Share

A Burmese leader will stand in the White House today for the first time since 1966. Not only does Thein Sein’s US visit cap an unprecedented round of diplomatic bridge-building that has taken him from Australia to Europe in recent months, it is also the high-water mark of his country’s return to international favour.

The US President has much to gain from such cordial relations with South-east Asia’s former pariah. Burma was Barack Obama’s first overseas trip of his second term. Why? Because he considers its shift from military lock-down to budding democracy as not only a US foreign policy victory, but one specifically his own. A more conciliatory approach to Rangoon was part of Mr Obama’s plan to “pivot” US attention away from the Middle East and towards increasingly China-dominated Asia. Between Mr Sein’s reforms and growing evidence of a different  approach from China – which now faces Western competition for access to minerals and hydrocarbons – the US President considers Burma one of his more certain successes.

But the real triumph, of course, belongs to Mr Sein. And there is no denying that he has brought his country a long way in just two, short years. Aung San Suu Kyi is a member of parliament, the economy is taking great strides, and the apparatus of repression is beginning to be dismantled. The race is far from run, however. Not only have just the easiest and most superficial changes been made – they may still be easily reversed. There is also a dark legacy to be unpicked: more than 150 political prisoners remain behind bars in Burma, for all that 20 were pardoned ahead of the US trip. Meanwhile, civil war continues to rage and the plight of the Rohingya Muslims is only worsening.

Mr Obama and Mr Sein will discuss the way ahead today. Amid the pledges of support, the US President has two messages to deliver. One is that there is no place for political prisoners in a democracy. The other is that the time has come for a constitutional settlement with Burma’s multitudinous minorities.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Finance Manager

£65,000 - £75,000: Neil Pavier: Have you every dreamt of working for a global ...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000: Neil Pavier: Do you want to work for an impressive digital ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Jihadi John went to my university – so what?

James Tennent
 

Japan's torture of my father was horrific — so why are they considering watering down the apology for their wartime past?

Liz Bestic
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower