John Kerry to Meet Burmese Officials This Week

By The Irrawaddy 4 August 2014

RANGOON — US Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive in the Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, on Saturday and will meet with Burmese government officials, according to a statement from Washington.

State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in the statement that Kerry will be attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit ministerial meetings, a US-Asean event and a meeting of the Lower Mekong Initiative.

“Engaging the region’s multilateral institutions is one of the key aspects of US commitment in Asia to promote peace, stability, and prosperity,” Psaki said.

“The Secretary will also participate in a series of bilateral meetings.”

Kerry is scheduled to fly on to Australia on Aug. 11.

Burma is this year holding the rotating chairmanship of Asean, and is hosting a number of meetings involving the 10 member states of the bloc and other countries. This week’s meeting are a precursor to the Asean Summit and East Asia Summit, high-level talks set to take place in Naypyidaw in November involving the US, China, India, Japan and Russia. US President Barack Obama is expected to attend the November meetings.

Ahead of Kerry’s visit, a group of more than 70 US lawmakers wrote to the secretary of state calling on him to recalibrate US policy toward Burma in light of sectarian violence in the country, continuing human rights abuses by the military, curbs on press freedom and the need to reform the military-drafted Constitution.

“We also urge that, when you go to Burma next month in the midst of this deterioration, you unequivocally convey to the government that the country’s current trajectory will seriously damage relations between our two nations,” the letter read.

“And, we urge you to use the tools at your disposal to sanction those complicit in abuses and atrocities against innocent Burmese people, increase pressure for concrete changes, and suspend further US concessions contemplated for approval until core issues are addressed.”