US official says his government looks forward to working with the NLD govt

18 January 2016
US official says his government looks forward to working with the NLD govt
US Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, meets with NLD Chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw on 18 January 2016. Photo: Min Min/Mizzima

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is on a visit to Myanmar to discuss democracy and human rights with government officials and NGOs.
On January 18, Mr Blinken met with President Thein Sein and other members of the government, as well as the head of the incoming government, National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Accompanying Mr Blinken is Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski.
In a press conference, Mr Blinken, responding to a question from Mizzima, said the United States was looking forward to working with the incoming NLD government, noting the government faces both challenges and opportunities as it takes up power.
Mr Blinken said he offered his congratulations to people of Myanmar over their successful election in November 2015.
“This is the first time since 1990, the citizens from all parts of the country the voices were heard and this time they are being respected,” he told media.
“The elections were a significant step forward in the journey to democracy in Myanmar that respects the rights of all. I also want to offer my congratulations to the National League for Democracy. The results are testament to the decades-long commitment of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD.
“They validate the sacrifices made by many brave Burmese during the years when even dreaming of this day was dangerous. And they reflect the government of Myanmar’s commitment to a democratic transition. So this is a moment of great opportunity, a moment for all of Myanmar’s leaders to work together to form a new government and address differences through dialogue.
Mr Blinken said his government welcomed the positive statements from President Thein Sein and the leadership of the military, congratulating the NLD and pledging to respect the results of the elections. He said it was encouraging that Aung Sand Suu Kyi has met with President Thein Sein, and the Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing to discuss the upcoming political transition.
He stressed, however, that the coming transition is but one milestone on the road to full democracy.
“We know there are still many challenges ahead,” he said.
“Broad-based economic growth must be nurtured and it must be sustained. The national reconciliation process must continue. Remaining political prisoners must be released, and human rights protected for all, no matter what their ethnicity or religion,” he said.
Reforms need to continue until an elected government is truly sovereign in all the country’s institutions and answer to the people, he said, adding that the United States will work in close partnership with the new government to support these efforts to achieve these goals.
He said he discussed with President Thein Sein and other members of the current government the  economic challenges facing the country including the incoming government’s focus on improving conditions for those who live and work off the land.
“The United States will continue to promote responsible investment by our companies in Myanmar, which we believe is strengthening local businesses and industries and building capital, not just extracting resources,” he noted.
The US Deputy Secretary of State said he talked about the peace process and political dialogue between the government and ethnic nationalities, and said the United States and other stakeholders are hoping to aid in its success.
“Meanwhile, we urge an end to offensive operations and unfettered access to civilians in need,” he told the press conference.
“I also affirmed the message that President (Barack) Obama delivered when he was last here, something I think the vast majority of people of Myanmar believe, that diversity is one of its greatest strengths, and turning people against each other, because of their religion or race, threatens democracy, peace and progress,” Mr Blinken said.
“In this context, I shared our strong concern about discrimination and violence experienced by ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya population in Rakhine State.
“As Aung San Suu Kyi has stressed, the solution is rule of law, equally applied to all, ensuring protection from violence, freedom of movement, access to livelihoods, education and health, and an equal chance for everybody to participate in the democratic life of their country,” he said.
Mr Blinken said the US government would do everything it can to help the new government as it goes forward. As progress is made, they hope the focus in Rakhine State can turn to challenges of underdevelopment and social division that are holding back all.
Addressing a question from Mizzima, Mr Blinken said his government looked forward to working with Aung San Suu Kyi’s incoming government.
“For all the tremendous excitement and optimism is well placed there will be hard work ahead, very difficult challenges to meet. But I think the government comes to the task with a ‘secret weapon’ and that is the support of the people in Myanmar. With that support, anything is possible and the United States looks forward to being a full partner with the new government in addressing the challenges and also the extraordinary opportunities that lie before Myanmar,” he said.