Myanmar’s Promises Unfulfilled as Leader Meets with Obama

Photo Credit: APMyanmar’s leader will meet Monday with President Obama amid criticism that the Southeast Asian country has done little to end its war against ethnic minority rebels, protect stateless Muslims or institutionalize democratic reforms that have been promised since its military junta was dissolved in 2011.

Still, President Thein Sein’s visit to Washington will be the first by a leader of Myanmar since President Lyndon B. Johnson hosted military strongman Ne Win at the White House in 1966.

“This trip is premature and undeserved,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The Obama administration says, ‘We reward them for their reforms,’ but the problem is it seems to reward [Myanmar’s rulers] whether they reform or not. It is not calibrating its carrots and sticks correctly.”

Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director for Amnesty International USA, said the administration must avoid treating Thein Sein’s visit as a “Mission Accomplished” moment, referring to President George W. Bush’s pronouncement about the Iraq war in 2003.

“This is a time for the Obama administration to underscore the continuing challenges that Myanmar faces in the areas of human rights, rule of law and transparency, and to develop an action plan with the government of Myanmar to address those concerns,” Mr. Jannuzi said. “We are not against high-level diplomacy with Myanmar, but it should be focused on a future-oriented agenda for reform … what it should not be is a premature celebration of job well done.”

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