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Archbishop: Clinton’s Myanmar visit a start, but reform must be lasting

Posted By December 2, 2011 | 3:31 pm | International
CNS/REUTERS PHOTO YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Myanmar signaled significant change, but President Thein Sein must do more to convince the world that democratic reform is real and lasting, said Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon.

Archbishop: Clinton’s Myanmar visit a start, but reform must be lasting
By Catholic News Service
YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar signaled significant change, but President Thein Sein must do more to convince the world that democratic reform is real and lasting, said Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon.
The comments came on the eve of a historic meeting between the president and Clinton, who arrived in the administrative capital Naypyidaw, about 200 miles north of Yangon, Nov. 30.
Archbishop Bo, who also serves as the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, said true democratic reform required substantially more effort.
“The government needs to release the remaining political prisoners to show that they are serious about democratic reform,” he told the Asian church news agency UCA News, adding that cease-fire agreements between the military and ethnic minority opposition forces also were needed.
Years of armed conflict have had a devastating impact on the country’s infrastructure and educational system, Archbishop Bo said.
“Through peace alone can the government bring development to the country and improve education,” he said. “Without proper education to an international standard, we will remain in the dark.”
He added that a primary concern for the church, amid more general issues of democratic reform, was access to conflict areas in Myanmar and communities in need of relief assistance, particularly in Kachin state, where fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and government forces has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of residents.
Clinton, the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Myanmar in half a century, arrived after months of discussions among U.S. officials about the significance and extent of reforms in the country, according to a briefing statement issued by the U.S. State Department.
Clinton arrived “with a series of very specific steps that we would like to see in terms of the next phase of the process that is under way” in Myanmar, the statement said.
Clinton met Myanmar’s foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, and the president. She also met with legislators and opposition leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy.

 

PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours the Shwedegon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, Dec. 1. Clinton’s landmark visit to the country, also known as Burma, marks a tentative rapprochement after more than 50 years of estrangement from the West. (CNS photo/Reuters)