Crowley visits Burma, meets with opposition leader
by Richard J. Bocklet
Jan 26, 2012 | 5639 views | 1 1 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Compliments of Congressman Crowley's office.
Compliments of Congressman Crowley's office.
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Congressman Joseph Crowley visited strife-torn Burma recently, the first House member to travel there on official business in more than 12 years.

As co-chair of the House Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, Crowley also toured India to explore opportunities to expand business, trade, defense and cultural relationships between the two countries.

"I am visiting [Burma] to assess the situation on the ground, as well as to encourage the government to continue on the path of reform," he said before his visit on January 12 and 13. "While the government has taken some steps in the direction of reform, there is more that needs to be done.”

In Burma, Crowley met with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic minority members, as well as government officials.

“During my meetings with government leaders, I pressed for the release of all prisoners of conscience and an end to all human rights abuses, especially against ethnic minorities,” he said. Exhibiting a hopeful stance, he added, “I did detect what could be seen as a level of sincerity from certain members of the government in addressing at least some of these issues, but what is most important is whether that plays out in reality or not. We are looking for continuing action.”

Crowley welcomed Secretary Clinton’s recent decision to initiate the process of appointing an ambassador to Burma as a measured response to encourage ongoing reform.

In Yangon, Crowley was the first member of Congress to hear directly the concerns of families of political prisoners, estimated at over 1,000, currently held in Burmese detention centers.

Attendees included political prisoners from the National League for Democracy, the 88 Generation Students Group, the media, and ethnic minority groups. The 88 Generation Students Group was at the forefront of a failed 1988 uprising in which thousands died.

On January 13, the army-supported government announced a major prisoner amnesty, releasing 651 prominent dissidents, journalists, ethnic minorities and a former premier.

Crowley labeled the release “a step forward.”

“However, there was a very clear message from the families that every political prisoner should be unconditionally released, but skepticism as to whether the government would do this or not, and even those whose family members were released from prison the next day, were not expecting that to happen,” Crowley said.

Of the major opposition leader Kyi, Crowley said, “She has been a determined advocate for reconciliation and we had a good discussion on how we can help to encourage further reform.”

On Wednesday, Kyi registered to run for a seat in parliament in the April 1 by-elections.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party has already been given approval to return to the political arena, another sign of change in the country.

Moe Chan, executive director of the Committee for International Movement of Burma Point, whose membership comes from the 10,000-member Burmese community living in Woodside, Sunnyside, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst, says the situation in Burma today is unpredictable.

“The current political reform taking place can't be understood as reconciliation dialogue," he said. “However, it can lead to it.

“There’s still has a long way to go,” he added. “The only way to peace is genuine dialogue between the government, including its military, the democratic forces, and the ethnic groups.”

Chan said that the United States needs to show its support for any positive reform. However, he notes, reform in Burma must be irreversible with major reconciliation efforts with at least four major ethnic groups, whose government-directed oppression Chan says has reached the level of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Positive signs to look for, according to Chan, are complete release of political prisoners, unfettered campaigning opportunities, and allowing international monitors inside the country to insure free and fair elections.

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Myo Thein
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January 27, 2012
I am the Director of the Burma Democratic Concern (BDC). In the past, we had supported the sanction on Burma. Now we call for lifting TOURISM, TRADE & INVESTMENT sanction on Burma due to the positive development in Burma. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) warmly welcomes the release of hundreds of political prisoners. According to the list of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD network inside Burma who are supporting prisoners and visiting prisons around the country -- the numbers are approximately nearest well documented by NLD that there are 591 political prisoners in Burma. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) welcomes the decision of the government to release the political prisoners according to the lists of NLD and we call for U Thein Sein regime to release all the rest of the political prisoners in accord with the NLD’s list of political prisoners.

Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) also welcomes US Government decision to normalise diplomatic relation in response to Burma Government’s positive steps taken. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) encourages international community to engage more with Burma in order to balance China’s influence over Burma. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) truly believes that more engagement would effectively promote political, civil, democratic and economic freedom in Burma.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has already invited investment and tourism in Burma. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) would like to echo our leader’s call for investment and tourism in Burma. Please do invest in Burma and please do visit Burma. Burma is facing challenges ahead which we must address sensibly, wisely and realistically for her quest for democracy. Burma must resolve poverty, corruptions, poor technology, and lack of expertise, poor banking, unemployment and inflation and fiscal and monetary policies.

Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) calls for investment in Burma which will significantly boost the welfare of the Burmese people. By removing investment and trade sanction on Burma, Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) truly believes that Burmese citizens will have the benefits of increased investment which can bring technology, knowledge and democratic values since outside investment strengthens private institutions. At the same time, Burma must work hard to end the economics monopoly and cronyism in Burma. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) welcomes tourists visiting Burma so as to promote ordinary Burmese people engaging with people from around the world.

Burma needs technology and financial assistance from international community to help rebuilding the nation after five decades of isolation and economics mismanagement. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) is very concerned that due to the sanction imposed on Burma as the subsequence crucial international aid are stopped delivering in Burma. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) calls for international community to provide more humanitarian assistance and development aid inside Burma and since in the past most of the US government's aid programme went to organisations based in Thailand. If there are obstacles blocking aids going inside Burma then we must remove them immediately since we don’t want to hurt the livelihood of the ordinary people of Burma whom are suffering from reputation risk. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) opposes anything hurting people.

Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) is very sad to learn that Burma receives less foreign aid money than any country in Southeast Asia because of the sanction imposed on Burma. For example, in 2009-10 Burma receives only $US7.2 per capita of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) while neighbouring Laos received $US64.4. Particularly international community must remove all sanctions that block technical assistance in health and social welfare. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) is very shocked to learn that restrictions imposed by western countries prohibit assistance from reaching any member of the government because of which prohibit providing any assistance such as even providing training to teachers and health workers.

In particular, Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) calls for more assistance and international investment in education, social and health care in Burma. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) truly believes that Burmese people will be very happy if International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) could help tackling poverty in Burma since Burma needs financial and technological assistance from international community so as to address the immediate needs of the people and in the process of rebuilding Burma.

Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) truly believes that Burma is on the right track for democratic change. In order to help reliving the suffering of the people of Burma, we must have common position amongst all parties concerned by putting national interest first. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) calls for international community to remove TOURISM, TRADE and INVESTMENT sanction on Burma in order to alleviate suffering of Burmese people who are suffering from REPUTATION RISK and to encourage Burmese government’s reform process which had already started.