Clinton Says Meaningful Progress Possible in Burma
By Election, Lalit K Jha 11 April 2012
WASHINGTON — Observing that it is still too early to say how far the current phase of reforms in Burma will go, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that the country now has a chance to achieve real progress.
“Burma offers a meaningful opportunity for economic and political progress. For decades, that Southeast Asian nation has been locked behind an authoritarian curtain while many other countries in the region made successful transitions to vibrant democracies and open markets,” Clinton said in her Forrestal Lecture at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
“For the United States, supporting these transitions has been one of our defining efforts in the Asia Pacific from South Korea to the Philippines to Thailand to Indonesia,” she said, adding that people often forget how hard it was for those four countries to make their transitions.
“They went through all kinds of military dictatorships and coups and instability,” she noted. “So we have to continue to have the patience and persistence to nurture the flickers of progress that I saw when I visited Burma, the first visit by a secretary of state in 50 years.”
“Of course, it is still too early to say how this story will end. But just nine days ago, the long-imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, was voted into Parliament,” Clinton said.
A day earlier, at a screening of “The Lady,” a biopic about Suu Kyi, Clinton spoke of the personal price the Burmese opposition leader paid for her commitment to helping her country achieve democracy.
“The personal side of Suu Kyi’s story that you will see tonight is one that is so moving when you look at what she gave up, the difficult decisions and sacrifices that she made for her country on behalf of freedom with the hope of democracy,” she said.
“It is certainly the case that whoever meets her knows how famous she is, how iconic she is. But what you come away with is how human, down-to-earth and personally engaged she happens to be in everything she’s doing, which makes her story even more painful,” she said.
“Watching her interact with the people around her—the people who took care of her, the people who were there with her through all her years of house arrest and struggle—makes you know that this is someone who was very well aware of the pain and the sacrifice that she was undertaking,” Clinton said.
Clinton also noted that she has discussed with Suu Kyi the difficulty of moving from being an icon to a politician.
“I did tell her in one of our recent telephone conversations that she was moving from an icon to a politician. Having made sort of the same journey to some extent, I know that that’s not easy because now you go to a parliament and you start compromising, which is what democracy is all about,” she said.
“As they grapple with transitioning from authoritarian military rule to a more open political and economic system, there are going to be a lot of difficult days ahead. President Thein Sein and his government have taken courageous steps. They’ve made this progress possible in many ways. They’ve helped to launch their country on this historic new path. But there is still a lot to be done,” Clinton said.