Obama in Myanmar: The Bigger Picture

Read this New York Times report on the landmark visit to Myanmar by recently re-elected US President Barack Obama.


7 thoughts on “Obama in Myanmar: The Bigger Picture

  1. Agnes Tse (Chung Yan)

    I am so happy that Myanmar has finally opened up itself and begun moving towards democracy! Myanmar’s economy had lagged behind most of its neighbor for decades under the rule of military junta. People living under the authoritarian leaders were suppressed and deprived of basic human rights. I feel happy that the government finally took the first step and held the general election in 2010. I hope the country can continue to move forward!
    Many said the US’ engagement with Myanmar has been as another tactic to contain China’s rise. Yet, who can say China’s engagement with Myanmar is not a strategy of power extension? It’s better for us to have one more democratic country than an autocratic one.

  2. Yilan Tian

    There is an interesting contradiction regarding his visit to Myanmar and Cambodia. He vowed support to Myanmar while said nothing to Cambodia. Though Some human rights activists deemed the visit to Myanmar a premature “vanity exercise”, by saying “It rewards Burma for things they’ve already been rewarded for, and it wastes enormous political capital which could have been saved up and used to reward future events”. Obama made clear he came to Cambodia only because it happened to be the site for a summit meeting of Asian leaders. In another NY Times article (“Obama, in Cambodia, Sidesteps Ghosts of American Wartime Past”), it says Obama did in private, pressed Mr. Hun Sen about repression. So we may say the ‘Vanity exercise’ is actually to promote the reforms Myanmar has done to other non-democratic countries.

  3. Michael Ng

    Obama’s historic trip to Myanmar not just to vow support to President Thein Sein’s democratic progress in Myanmar, but again strengths the “U.S. pivot to Asia’s Policy” I agreed with Aung San Suu Kyi that “We have to be very careful that we are not lured by a mirage of success and that we are working towards genuine success for our people.” It is too early to say the democratic progress is success or not, but I believe that it is not just a business mirage for U.S.’ companies in the near future. According to the recent news, after U.S. lift sanctions in Myanmar earlier this year, some U.S. companies like Chevron and GE have already applied for licenses to operate in Myanmar. So I believe at least Obama will gain supports from business sectors in state.

    Here are two links about some reasons behind Obama’s trip to Myanmar.

  4. Kei Iwata

    Just to note my ambivalent feeling toward Thein Sein reform which is in progress since 2010.
    The world, including US president, is welcoming it! OK, I understand them and strongly agree them that it is a progress toward democracy. But it is far too early to praise them.
    The ruling party and the government are both still de facto representatives of the military. The constitution practically rejects any party winning the ruling power without military consent.
    Given this condition, praising and empowering the existing ruling party is nothing more than paving the way for them to stay in authoritarian power for longer period. The paradox is that more and more the West welcomes the democratic move of Myanmar, possibility of adopting real democracy declines.

    Maybe question is how much extent of democratization should be considered reasonably valuable. If you set the target too far, it harms motivation of existing authoritarian rulers. If you set it too easy and start giving reward for achievement, it harms motivation for further democratization…

  5. Merlin Boone

    I believe that the US visit to Myanmar is extremely symbolic of its willingness to balance against China. Myanmar, a longtime political and economic ally of the PRC, maintains relatively little influence on the United States in both terms of economic and military importance. As such, the move is a political gesture to the new PRC government; “we are willing to step in your backyard and hang out with your friends.”

    While the promotion of enhanced Myanmar reform is enticing, I doubt this is the reason that both the POTUS and the Sec of State spent time in Myanmar.

  6. Moon Do Kim

    Obama’s visit to Asia can be interpreted as a symbol of American’s willingness to engage either once again or perhaps in a stronger sense with the growing Asian popularity and demand. Whether this involvement of the United States is a beneficial factor or one that may have its potential threats is still too early to decide. On the final class of our course, we talked about security issues and future security architecture potentials in the region. And, although many factores are involved in the influence and ultimate outcome, we can surely imply that the actions and relations taken by the United States and China certainly have a strong say.
    Many different historical and present issues should be considered when trying to figure out the present situation and future architecture of the Asian region. Although it was not discussed in this class, there was a brief discussion on the course of ‘International Organization’ over both non-traditional and traditional security measures, what institutions have done and/or can do in the future, and how this affects the global politics. Interestingly, another peer of the class mentioned that he believed that the ultimate answer and solution was to create a super government, one that is higher over all the rest. Following, there was heavy debate and discussion of whether this is possible or even necessary, as it doesn’t seem to be much different from the current United Nations, where, we must acknolwedge that power play of bigger and stronger countries affect the decisions more.
    Whether we should heavily concentrate on only traditional security measures such as the territorial disputes of China and Japan, in addition to the United States involvement in the issue, or rather focus on much more global, yet more invisible, non traditional issues such as climate change or food shortage, rests on each individual’s choice. However, I do believe that awareness of this issue should be raised and focus should be redirected accordingly.


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