A 22-member US delegation including senior military officials has arrived in Burma to attend a human rights dialogue conference and meet with government officials.
|US Army Pacific Commander Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski speaks at the opening ceremony of the 36th Annual Pacific Armies Management Seminar in Canberra, Australia, on July 16, 2012. Photo: U.S. Army|
The delegation will attend the first bilateral Human Rights Dialogue, which reflects the US dministration’s whole-of-government approach to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law, oficials said.
The delegation is led by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner and includes senior representatives from the White House National Security Staff, the Office of the Vice President, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense.
The dialogue will cover a range of human rights-related issues, including the rule of law; protection of civilian populations in conflict areas; business, labor, and economic development; freedom of expression; religious freedom; criminal justice and political prisoners; and human rights and the military.
The delegation includes Lt. Gen Francis Wiercinski, the head of the US Army’s Pacific command, and the visit reflected the growing view in Washington that the support of Burma’s military is essential to any lasting reforms or peace agreements with ethnic minorities, according to a story on the Financial Times website on Monday.
Recently, Burma asked Thailand to help secure US support for its participation in US-Thai Cobra Gold joint military exercises.
Other delegation officials include Vikram Singh, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, Derek Mitchell, the US ambassador to Burma, and other senior officials from the state department, National Security Council, homeland security department and USAid.
They are due to meet Burma’s President Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the military, and other senior officials.
Besides government officials, the delegation will meet leaders of ethnic groups including Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists from the western coastal state of Rakhine (formerly Arakan).
They will also meet trade unions and religious groups, as well as members of Aung SanSuu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and Generation ‘88, a group of former political prisoners.
In a recent report, the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies suggested that the US should start bilateral programmes of training and exchange visits as a precursor to normalizing military relations.
“This visit makes perfect sense,” said Thant Myint-U, who is involved in the government’s peace efforts, told The Financial Times. “It would be counterproductive for the peace process to proceed without involving Myanmar’s military.”
Meanwhile, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is also visiting Burma to consult with officials.