Burma: Hillary Clinton's historic visit
- Published: 2/12/2011 at 08:26 PM
- Online news:
Analysis of Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Burma by scholar Ernest Bower of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Singapore.
Ernest Bower of CSIS Singapore wrote this information-packed and eloquent explanation of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Burma and meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Photo above of pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embracing after speaking to the press at Suu Kyi's residence in Yangon on December 2, 2011. Photo below of their walk through the garden of Suu Kyi's residence after their meeting (AFP photos: Saul Loeb).
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CLINTON IN BURMA: Visit seeks real reform by Ernest Bower
Why should Hillary Clinton go to Burma? The short answer is to encourage the best chance at real political change in a country that effectively cloistered itself under harsh military rule for nearly five decades.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomes Burma’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to dinner at the US Chief of Mission Residence in Rangoon yesterday.
Burma has been the virtual political ball and chain of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which it joined in 1997. Mrs Clinton became the first US secretary of state to visit Burma since John Foster Dulles 50 years ago.
The plan is essentially to "take them up on it" and proactively encourage what could be a historic opportunity for reform. Burmese President Thein Sein has signalled that the government is opening the door to political reform and he says he won't go back.
History advises caution, however, as the generals have cynically initiated numerous false starts in the past, only to slam the door shut with determined violence. It is likely that the junta's former leader, Senior General Than Shwe, has allowed what he sees as a calculated gamble on reform. Whether and at what point he could pull it back remains to be seen.
While analysts will quibble over intent, there is no argument that this time feels different. The Obama administration is seizing the opportunity to encourage change. The approach makes sense for several reasons
One is that the motivation for change is credible. There are three parts to the answer of why Burma is changing now. The first is nationalism and an existential sense of needing options to balance perceived Chinese dominance of the economy, military acquisition, and infrastructure. Burma's leaders privately describe tacit Chinese control of their economy as suffocating and encroaching on sovereignty. Local business leaders complain of Chinese companies' ability to virtually flood their market at will with inexpensive goods. Unsurprisingly, Burma wants options and space.
Second, Sr Gen Than Shwe is reported to have realised that the system he used to rule with an iron fist was bound to be inherited by the next-strongest and most ruthless general. He knew from experience that this might not augur well for him and his family, much less burnish his legacy.
By allowing power to be diffused via political reform, he may be relieved of the potentially damaging ramifications of a military succession. He is willing to take his chances with the legacy of a leader who stepped aside to open the doors to reform.
Finally, there is a quiet but indisputable trend toward empowerment of the people in Southeast Asia. This has been the year of the voter in the region. The "Asean Spring" has been a quieter and more peaceful version of what has been happening in the Middle East, but in many ways is no less significant. Governments around the region are scrambling to retain power by pursuing reform - from Malaysia where Prime Minister Najib Razak is unfolding historic reforms to save his ruling coalition, to Vietnam where the Communist Party works incessantly to distribute authority in an effort to survive, to Singapore where the incumbent People's Action Party was shocked in May elections, and to the Philippines where an unexpected reformer was essentially conscripted to run for president based on his mother's legacy. Indonesia moved earlier and is now coping with the chaotic traits of being a new democracy.
In fact, this trend may be compelling. It is more than possible that in the next 10 years political reform in Southeast Asia will affect China more than Chinese economic dominance will change Asean.
The decision to send Mrs Clinton to Burma to support reform is also consistent with the outlines of a developing US strategy generally and for Southeast Asia specifically. The goal is to strengthen Asean as a foundation for new regional security and trade architecture, and thereby create frameworks capable of allowing China to grow and be secure but not use its new economic might to force neighbours' hands on issues related to sovereignty. To be successful, this plan must also allow China to save face in the process.
To achieve this goal, the US administration has decided to invest in a significantly more granular engagement and understanding of each of the Asean member countries - to fortify the whole by solidifying ties with its parts. This is a labour- and time-intensive approach, and not without risks, but it is the only way to go.
The keystone of America's new Burma policy is that the administration has the support of Aung San Suu Kyi, a woman who personifies her country's struggle for political reform. Through US special envoy Derek Mitchell and others, the United States now has daily communications and access to Mrs Suu Kyi. She has announced she will run for parliament in the coming by-elections (believed slated for December but not officially announced yet). She has also signalled that she trusts President Thein Sein and believes there is no choice but to test how far he can go with reforms.
Actions have backed up words thus far. Thein Sein has followed through on commitments to open up the media, changed the electoral laws to allow Mrs Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to participate in elections, passed a new labour law that allows for the formation of unions and collective bargaining, and started to release political prisoners.
More needs to be done, and urgently, but these steps demonstrate credible commitment to change. Harder steps will be resolving disputes with the ethnic minorities and implementing much-needed economic reforms.
The US response to these steps forward is likely to be measured. Don't look for US sanctions to be unwound any time soon. In fact, even if the Obama administration wanted to, it couldn't move too quickly to unwind and revoke the multiple layers of legal sanctions preventing US companies and the US government from engaging Burma.
The process will be to verify and consolidate gains on reform and respond with appropriate steps toward re-engagement. The process will look similar to normalising relations with Vietnam, if Burma is serious about following through. Steps are incremental and take years, as trust is built and progress confirmed
Mrs Clinton's trip is a strong statement of intent by the United States. Additional near-term measures by the US could include naming an ambassador, recognising the country's name as "Myanmar" rather than calling it "Burma", and working to revise the Tier 3 rating for Burma on the State Department's Trafficking in Persons report, which automatically prevents the US from supporting assessment visits by multilateral development institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Asian Development Bank
Mrs Clinton's trip is well timed and well advised. It is true that Sr Gen Than Shwe and retrograde forces could try to turn back the political clock in Burma. Yet even in this worst-case scenario, the US effort would not have been in vain
Ernest Bower is Senior Adviser and Director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Southeast Asia Programme. This article originally appeared in the Pacific Forum CSIS Pacnet series.
(Source: Bangkok Post, CLINTON IN BURMA, Visit seeks real reform, 2/12/2011, Ernest Bower, link)
Political Reform in Burma Vocabulary
reform - improvements in the way a government or an organization operates; a change intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair การปฏิรูป การแก้ไข
political reform - improvements in the way a government operates
Hillary Clinton - US Secretary of State and wife of former US President Bill Clinton (See Wikipedia)
historic - important for history (meaning: people in the future will probably remember this event as important)
Hillary Clinton's historic visit
US Secretary of State - the official in the President's cabinet in charge of US foreign relations, relations with other countries (See Wikipedia)
John Foster Dulles - an important US Secretary State during the Cold War (1953-59) after World War II (See Wikipedia)
Aung San Suu Kyi - famous icon of democracy in Burma (See Wikipedia)
National League for Democracy - Aung San Suu Kyi's political party in Burma (See Wikipedia)
icon - someone who is very famous and who people think represents a particular idea ดาราหรือบุคคลผู้มีชื่อเสียงที่เป็นตัวแทนของสิ่งใดสิ่งหนึ่ง
democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi
encourage - 1. to make someone more likely to do something, or to make something more likely to happen; 2. cause someone to gain enthusiasm, motivation, and energy in what they are doing ปลุกใจ
encourage the best chance at real political change
effectively - looks and seems just the same as (or very similar to)
cloistered - to lead a life separate from the world (isolate from the rest of the world)
harsh - strict, unkind and often unfair อย่างรุนแรง
military rule - when the military and soldiers rule a country as its government
decades - periods of ten years เป็นสิบๆปี
effectively cloistered itself under harsh military rule for nearly five decades.
ball and chain - 1. something that prevents you from doing things; 2. a heavy iron ball and chain put around the legs of prisoners in the past to prevent them from escaping
virtual - so similar to the real thing that you can treat it as the real thing เสมือนจริง
virtual political ball and chain
take them up on an offer - accept and take the thing that they offered you
essentially - the main idea of something (the "essence"), for the most part ที่สำคัญที่สุด
the plan is essentially to "take them up on it"
proactively - acting early to solve problems before they even occur
proactively encourage... - making great efforts to make them interested in doing ...
opportunity - a situation when it is possible to do something that you want to do (See glossary)
historic opportunity for reform
proactively encourage what could be a historic opportunity for reform.
signal - do something to send a message to people (but not tell them directly with words)
open the door for - allowing something to happen
signalled that the government is opening the door to political reform
history advises caution - if you look at what has happened in the past (history), then you might expect it to fail or not happen
initiated - created; started ริเริ่มโดย
numerous - many มากมาย
false starts - 1. when it looks like you are doing something btu you don't do it; 2. in a running race when a runner leaves the starting line too early
the generals have cynically initiated numerous false starts in the past
determined - wanting to do something very much and not letting anyone or any difficulties stop you ตั้งใจจริง, ซึ่งมุ่งมั่น
violence - physical force with the delsiberate intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people ความรุนแรง
slam the door shut - closing the door very strongly, making a loud noise ( here means: end suddenly and rudely)
slam the door shut with determined violence.
gamble - taking a risk (maybe your succeed, maybe you fail)
calculated gamble - a gambling knowing what the risk is, what the probability of winning is and what you could get if you win , etc ...
calculated gamble on reform
quibble - have an argument over small details that are not important
intent - your plan or purpose จุดประสงค์
no argument that - no one could argue that (it is obvious and everyone would agree)
quibble over intent, there is no argument that this time feels different
seize an opportunity - quickly take the opportunity you have to do something (while you still have it)
administration - one government that a country has for a period of time
Obama administration is seizing the opportunity
approach - a way of doing or dealing with something การจัดการกับปัญหา วิธีการทำให้ถึงจุดหมาย
the approach makes sense - this way to do it seems like the right way to do it
motivation - a reason for doing something (a big cash reward for success, for example)
credible - able to be believed or trusted น่าเชื่อถือ
the motivation for change is credible
nationalism - the expression of great love for your own country (sometimes with the not-so-nice belief that your country is better than other countries) ความเป็นชาตินิยม
options - choices; the different things that someone can choose to do ทางเลือก
dominance - being more powerful than others
acquisition - the process of buying something; something that has been bought
infrastructure - the high-cost facilities that everyone in the economy shares (water, roads, electricity, trains) สาธารณูปโภค
needing options to balance perceived Chinese dominance of the economy, military acquisition, and infrastructure.
tacit - actually is true, but not willing to say this (admit that it is true)
tacit Chinese control of their economy
sovereignty - the right of a country to rule itself อำนาจอธิปไตย อำนาจเด็จขาดเหนือพื้นที่
encroach - when someone takes over a place that belongs to someone else for themselves (example: the restaurant encroached on the public sidewalk by pouring concrete over it and making it part of the restaurant)
encroaching on sovereignty
suffocating - 1. when the situation you are in does not allow you to act freely and develop; 2. die because there is no air to breathe
suffocating and encroaching on sovereignty.
virtually - almost เกือบจะ แทบจะ
flood their market - suddenly start selling a lot of goods in a market
at will - they can do it whenever they want
Chinese companies' ability to virtually flood their market at will with inexpensive goods
Burma wants options and space
realised - achieved ทำให้เป็นจริง
rule with an iron fist - same as "ruthless"
ruthless - very cruel, will do anything to get what they want; not thinking or worrying about any pain caused to others; cruel ไร้ความปรานี, โหดเหี้ยม
bound to - certain; sure แน่นอน
bound to be inherited by the next-strongest and most ruthless general.
augur well - is a sign that things will go well for them in the future
legacy - the things that a person contributed to society that continue to exist after they have retired or died
burnish his legacy - make his legacy appear to be better (more worthy of praise by future generations)
allowing power to be diffused via political reform
relieved - happy that something unpleasant has not happened or has ended โล่งใจ, เบาใจ, หมดกังวล, ผ่อนคลาย
potentially - may happen; possible in the future ที่อาจเกิดขึ้นได้ เป็นไปได้
ramifications - all the things that happen as a result of something such as a decision, event or plan
potentially damaging ramifications - the things that happen as a result (that it causes) may cause damage
succession - a big change in government (this can turn into a power struggle that results in fighting and even civil war = succession struggle)
military succession - a change in military government
may be relieved of the potentially damaging ramifications of a military succession.
take his chances - do something not knowing the outcome (outcome could be good or bad)
willing to take his chances
step aside - allow someone else to serve in the position you are currently in
a leader who stepped aside to open the doors to reform.
trend - a gradual change or development that produces a particular result ทิศทาง แนวโน้ม
empowerment - activities that give people power and control over their life
a quiet but indisputable trend toward empowerment of the people in Southeast Asia.
significant - important; large enough to be important or have an effect ที่สำคัญยิ่ง
no less significant - equally or more important
retain - to keep, not lose รักษา
retain power - keep power, not lose power
reforms - improvements in the way that government works
scrambling - moving quickly (but unorderly) to do something
scrambling to retain power by pursuing reform
unfolding historic reforms
coalition - a government formed by two or more political parties working together รัฐบาลหลายพรรค
ruling coalition - the coalition government that is currently the government of a country (currently in power)
works incessantly - works without stopping
distribute - to give something to a group of people แจกจ่าย
authority - power อำนาจ the power to make decisions or tell people what to do อำนาจ, อำนาจในการสั่งการ
effort - the energy and enthusiasm that people put into an activity; an attempt to do something ความพยายาม
survive - to continue to exist or live (despite a dangerous situation, an illness, injury, etc) รอดพ้น อยู่รอด สืบต่อไปได้ มีชีวิตรอด
works incessantly to distribute authority in an effort to survive,
incumbent - the political party that currently has power in a country
incumbent People's Action Party
conscript - recruited, people asked (persuaded, convinced) him to do something
conscripted to run for president based on his mother's legacy
chaotic - happening in a confused way and without any order or organisation ยุ่งเหยิง วุ่นวาย
traits - characteristics that can produce a particular type of behavior ลักษณะพิเศษ
coping with the chaotic traits of being a new democracy.
compelling - convincing or persuading you that something is true or should be done
this trend may be compelling.
support - help, give assistance to สนับสนุน
consistent - doing a task the same way (not changing all the time) อย่างสม่ำเสมอ อย่างเสมอต้นเสมอปลาย
strategy - a plan to achieve long term goals ('strategy' gives the big picture, 'tactics' the details)
the outlines of a developing US strategy - meaning: what one can tell now about the strategy (not yet fully clear or specified)
consistent with the outlines of a developing US strategy
specifically - in an exact and detailed way
foundation - supporting structure; a strong base on which a build a building or system; the part of a structure of a building that is below the ground and supports the rest of it รากฐาน
security - the activity of making safe or protecting from harm
trade - the buying and selling of goods การค้าขาย
architecture - the structure or organisation of a group
strengthen Asean as a foundation for new regional security and trade architecture,
frameworks - a structure and system for doing some activity
capable - able to do something; very good at a job มีความสามารถ
secure - safe from attack or harm ปลอดภัย
force - strong and violent action กำลัง ความรุนแรง
issues - subjects that need to be considered ประเด็น
economic might - economic power
force neighbours' hands - force or make nearby countries to do what they want
create frameworks capable of allowing China to grow and be secure but not use its new economic might to force neighbours' hands on issues related to sovereignty.
save face - maintain honour and prestige; not get into embarassing and shameful situation รักษาหน้า (See Wikipedia)
process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
in the process - while doing a series of actions, during the process
must also allow China to save face in the process
significantly - in an important way อย่างสำคัญ
engagement - being involved in something การพัวพันอยู่กับ
granular engagement - creating friendships where each friend is treated in the special way that is best for them
ties - relations; connections ความสัมพันธ์
invest in a significantly more granular engagement and understanding of each of the Asean member countries - to fortify the whole by solidifying ties with its parts
intensive - involving a lot of effort, energy, or attention
labour- and time-intensive - uses a lot of work and time
not without risks - meaning: there are risks
the only way to go - meaning: must be done
policy - a plan of action to guide decisions and achieve outcomes (See Wikipedia) นโยบาย
the keystone of America's new Burma policy
personify - to be the perfect example of something
struggle - a difficult fight or an attempt to defeat someone การต่อสู้เพื่อความอยู่รอด a very difficult task that you can do only by making a great effort ความพยายาม an attempt to stop someone from having power over you; a fight or a war การต่อสู้ดิ้นรน
Aung San Suu Kyi, a woman who personifies her country's struggle for political reform.
envoy - someone who is sent as a representative from one government or organization to another ทูต
access - the ability to gain entry and use or see something; the right or opportunity to have or use something ได้รับสิทธิ์หรือโอกาสในการใช้
slated for - scheduled for
by-elections slated for December
there is no choice but to
backed - supported ให้การสนับสนุน
commitments - things you must do (because you promised to do them)
followed through on commitments
media - radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group สื่อ
open up the media - make the media freer, less under government control
unions - an organisation for the employees of companies that tries to gain better pay and benefits (health insurance, retirement, etc) for them
collective - involving all the members of a group ที่เป็นจำนวนมาก ที่เป็นกลุ่มใหญ่
bargaining - try to get a better deal from someone (for example, a better price for something you want to buy)
collective bargaining - talks between a union representing the workers of a company and the management of a company (See Wikipedia)
participate - to take part in or become involved in an activity มีส่วน
participate in elections
release - to let someone leave a place where they have been kept, in this case, a prison ปล่อยตัว
political prisoners -
release political prisoners.
urgently - needing to be dealt with immediately อย่างเร่งด่วน
urgently - quickly solving a problemอย่างเร่งด่วน
urgently - done quickly because need right now
More needs to be done, and urgently,
demonstrate - 1. show something; and/or 2. explain how it works สาธิต
commitment - a promise to do something in the future ข้อสัญญา
credible commitment - a believeable promise
these steps demonstrate credible commitment to change.
resolving disputes with the ethnic minorities
implementing - turning a plan into a functioning system นำมาใช้จริง
implementing much-needed economic reforms.
measured - careful and limited อย่างไตร่ตรองและรอบคอบ
The US response to these steps forward is likely to be measured.
sanctions - punishment for countries that have broken international law (restricting trade and official contact)
unwind sanctions - gradually reduce and eliminate sanctions
revoke - cancel, officially end something, take away; to officially say that something is not longer legal ยกเลิก, เพิกถอน
revoke the multiple layers of legal sanctions preventing US companies and the US government from engaging Burma.
verify - check and prove that something is true or that standards have been met พิสูจน์ว่าเป็นความจริง
consolidate - to make the power, position or achievements you already have stronger or more effective รวมเป็นหนึ่ง
verify and consolidate gains on reform
respond - to say or do something as a reaction to something that has been said or done ตอบสนอง, ตอบรับ
respond with appropriate steps toward re-engagement.
normalising relations with Vietnam - because of the Vietnam War, the US and Vietnam did not have diplomatic relations for 20 years, the two countries began relations again in 1995 (See Wikipedia)
incremental - an additional amount (beyond what you already have)
trust - believing in people (believing that they will do as promised); when people have confidence in each other (so they can work together effectively) ความเชื่อมั่น
progress - gradual improvement towards achieving a goal ความก้าวหน้า
confirmed - said that a claim or action is true, verified
Steps are incremental and take years, as trust is built and progress confirmed
statement of intent - saying what they are planning on doing
measures - actions taken to deal with a problem มาตราการ
near-term measures - actions to be taken very soon
ambassador - a senior official who lives in a foreign country and represents his or her own country there ทูต เอกอัครราชทูต
Tier 3 rating for Burma on the State Department's Trafficking in Persons report - (See US State Department)
revise - improve, create again or recreate with improvements
assessment - the process of making a judgment or forming an opinion, after considering something or someone carefully การประเมิณสถานการณ์
multilateral - between two or more countries; relation involving many countries
development - the gradual growth and formation of something (here: economic development)
institutions - large and important organizations, such as universities or banks สถาบัน
multilateral development institutions - organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank, that are run with contributions from many countries, serving many countries
turn back the clock
turn back the political clock in Burma
scenario - the way a situation could develop in the future
worst-case scenario - the worst situation in the future (if everything goes wrong)
in vain - actions and efforts that fail to achieve their goal (or intended effect)
the US effort would not have been in vain
About the author
- Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Assistent Manager Educational services