Nancy Pelosi to Lead US Delegation in Burma

By The Irrawaddy 31 March 2015

RANGOON — A delegation of US officials led by Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, will arrive in Burma on Wednesday for high-level meetings in Naypyidaw and Rangoon.

“Our delegation will discuss ways we can strengthen security cooperation; advance human rights with an emphasis on women, workers and religious minorities; and increase fair trade,” Leader Pelosi said in a statement.

The Democratic leader is accompanied by members of Congress Charlie Rangel, Sander Levin, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Thompson, Doris Matsui, Mike Fitzpatrick, Dan Kildee and Mark Takai. The delegation’s tour also includes stops in Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.

“We arrive at an important moment for the United States’ relationship with these countries, and find ourselves presented with fresh opportunities and familiar challenges in the region,” the statement read.

The visit will also focus on “gaining further understanding of how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that is currently being negotiated will impact the region’s markets and economies.”

The TPP, a proposed regional investment treaty that has become the subject of some controversy, is a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s so-called pivot to Asia.

This week’s visit follows an elite development conference held in Washington, DC, focused on US-Japan cooperation in Burma’s development, attended by US Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell, officials from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, expert advisors and a representative of the Myanmar Peace Center.

The United States has rapidly stepped up relations with Burma since the former pariah state initiated political reforms in 2011. Since that time, an ambassador was appointed for the first time in decades, long-standing economic sanctions were eased and legislation has been amended to allow for more humanitarian aid and limited military cooperation.

Despite the accelerated engagement, the United States has shown several signs of reprove toward the Burmese government. As recently as Tuesday, the US State Department issued a statement of concern in response to criminal charges being filed against scores of peaceful protesters earlier this month.

The State Department called for “the immediate, unconditional release of all individuals being detained in the country as a result of exercising their right to peacefully assemble” and recommended an impartial investigation into two recent crackdowns on demonstrators that left many injured by police and more than 100 in jail.