Former US Chief Diplomat Madeleine Albright to Assist Burma in Reform

By Zarni Mann 3 June 2013

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is in Burma for the first time since 1995, told the leaders of Burma’s political parties that the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is willing to assist the country in its ongoing transition to democracy.

Albright is on a five-day visit to Burma, arriving on Friday and meeting with Burmese political parties, ethnic leaders and civil society organizations on Sunday.

“She said she recognized the process of change in Burma and that she and the NDI are planning to help the country to continue this process,” said Thu Wai, chairman of the Democratic Party.

“She said the NDI is currently helping Parliament by sending the parliamentarians abroad to learn about the politics and legislatures of foreign nations,” he added. “She said NDI is willing to help civil society groups as well as every political party in order to foster effective participation in the reform process. She also said that she personally is willing to assist the country’s education sector.”

At the meeting, Albright asked party leaders about Burma’s political environment and inquired as to the state of the country’s civil society organizations. She also heard comments on the ongoing reform process more broadly.

“Albright asked us about the situation of the ethnic groups and the peace process with the government. We’ve explained to her that we will encourage the peace process and will go step by step to maintain the peace and stability of the country,” said Khun Htun Oo, chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy.

“Since the visit of President Obama, the relationship between the US and Burma has already recovered, followed by the lifting of sanctions. Albright’s visit will strengthen these relations, hopefully,” he added.

Albright, who is currently the chairman of the NDI, is scheduled to meet with Burmese government officials and the country’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a statement released by the NDI.

“Secretary Albright said she will stress the importance of democracy and development hand in hand with the rule of law and the fundamental principles of tolerance, compromise and inclusiveness,” the statement said.

Albright will also deliver remarks at Rangoon University in Burma’s commercial capital on Tuesday.

On her last visit, Albright delivered tough talk to Burma’s generals, warning that the country would face continued isolation if the leaders of the military junta at the time did not take steps toward greater political freedom and democracy for Burma’s people. She met in 1995 with military intelligence leader Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and other government officials, as well as Suu Kyi.