THURSDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2011 YASMIN GINAI
BikyaMasr – The 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which Myanmar is a member is expected to formally approve on Thursday Myanmar’s request to chair the Southeast Asian regional bloc in 2014.
President Barack Obama has warned Myanmar, also known as Burma, must demonstrate improvements in human rights in addition to the recent release of hundreds of political prisoners in October.
“Some political prisoners have been released. The government has begun a dialogue. Still, violations of human rights persist,” said Obama to the Australian parliament.
“So we will continue to speak clearly about the steps that must be taken for the government of Burma to have a better relationship with the United States.”
Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Towijakchaiku, during an ASEAN summit on in Bali, said “We believe that with the positive improvements in Myanmar right now, this has shown that Myanmar would like to come back to the democratic way.”
Recent efforts made for reform by the Myanmar government include calls for peace with ethnic minority groups, some tolerance of criticism, suspension of an unpopular Chinese-funded dam project and the legalization of labour unions.
President Thein Sein has also reached out to democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed last year from 15 years of house arrest.
The United States has said that freeing political prisoners is one of many preconditions to lifting sanctions that have isolated Myanmar and driven it closer to China.