G-8 Leaders Pay Tribute to Thein Sein, Suu Kyi

By Lalit K Jha 21 May 2012

WASHINGTON—Impressed by recent developments in Burma, leaders of G-8 countries paid tribute to the efforts of President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League of Democracy, and called for enhanced aid to the country.

“We pay tribute to the remarkable efforts of President Thein Sein, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and many other citizens of Burma/ Myanmar to deliver democratic reform in their country over the past year,” the leaders of the powerful G-8 grouping said in their Camp David declaration.

The leaders of the G-8 countries—the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Russia—said they also recognized the need to secure lasting and irreversible reform, and pledged support to existing initiatives, particularly those which focus on peace in ethnic area, national reconciliation, and entrenching democracy.

The declaration, significantly, mentions both names Burma and Myanmar. “We also stress the need to cooperate to further enhance aid coordination among international development partners of Burma/ Myanmar and conduct investment in a manner beneficial to the people of Burma/ Myanmar,” the declaration said.

Burma was the only country which was praised by the G-8 leaders in their declaration, which took strong note and expressed concerns over the Iranian, Syrian and the North Korean regimes.

At the invitation of the US President Barack Obama, the G-8 leaders gathered at the scenic Camp David. This was the largest ever gathering of foreign leaders at this historic presidential retreat.

On Saturday, Obama said the developments in Burma were also discussed during their intimate dinner on Friday night.

“ … we had the opportunity to discuss Burma, and all of us are hopeful that the political process and transition and transformation that is beginning to take place there takes root,” he said.

“Many of us have taken action to open up trade and investment with Burma for the first time in many years and we have had discussions with the leaders there. Our hope is, is that this process will continue, and we’re going to do everything that we can to encourage that process,” Obama said.

Meanwhile speaking on the floor of the US House of Representatives, Arizona Congressman Trent Franks urged the Obama administration not to lift sanctions from Burma. Franks said the news that the US Government is easing sanctions against Burma is deeply disturbing.

“This has to raise the question of why administration officials are actively working—in fact coordinating—the delivery of ‘significantly more and better weapons’ for the Syrian opposition, but is literally turning its back on and deliberately ignoring the extreme brutally being carried out on a daily basis by the Burmese dictatorship against the people of Burma, particularly the Kachin people,” Franks said.

“Why would the administration lift sanctions against a brutal dictatorship that has years and years of documented, horrific human rights violations against the people of its nation, when in the Middle East, the administration is supporting the opposition forces fighting against a different brutal dictatorship?” he asked.

“Why is it that one brutal dictatorship has the ire and opposition of the US government, but another dictatorship, that has yet to prove it will uphold and implement its commitments, is being rewarded for continuing to attack, rape, and kill its people?” he questioned.

Franks said instead of listening to the people of Burma as well as those outsiders and foreigners working on behalf of the people of Burma, the US administration has ignored them all. “Instead, it has gone the path of cozying up to dictators and believing their promises … an odd decision since the dictators have not tended to keep their word in the past,” he said.

“The pattern generally has been that as soon as the dictators have received what they wanted from the West or the international community, they have simply gone back to their old ways while the rest of the world stands by and wrings its hands in consternation. Nothing has been done to hold those dictators to account for their actions,” he said.

Franks said that with the easing of sanctions, the US has given the regime what it wants and has lost any leverage it might have. “It is appalling that a country founded on freedom and democracy has taken steps to deliberately undermine democracy and freedom in Burma and instead has chosen to support a dictatorship bent on absolute control of its people,” he said.