The President of Burma, Thein Sein, visited the White House on May 20, 2013 for a meeting with President Barack Obama. While the exchange has been hailed as a landmark meeting by the Obama administration, human rights activists and women’s groups in Burma point to the regime’s appalling human rights record to argue that a normalization of relations was premature.
Nobel Peace Laureates Ramos-Horta, Yunus, and Rogers wrote in a recent New York Times editorial, “The political changes underway [in Burma] mark a change of atmosphere, but not yet a change of system.” The Laureates write that international engagement should not be “uncritical or unthinking,” given that Burma has a “very, very long way to go.”
These sentiments are mirrored by communities, especially women, belonging to ethnic minorities in Burma, as they continue to face widespread violence and mass displacement. Sexual violence continues to be perpetrated by the government security forces in certain provinces as a systematic weapon of war.
According to Moon Nay Li, member of the Women’s League of Burma, “Not only is the government not protecting civilians or stopping the Burmese troops, U Thein Sein and U Aung Min are denying human rights abuses. Now that the fighting has increased, the government troops will use this pretext to continue raping, torturing and killing.”
Burma’s Thein Sein Visits Washington, Time, 20 May 2013.
President Thein Sein Visits Washington as Ethnic Cleansing Continues in Burma, The Diplomat, 20 May 2013.
Thein Sein becomes first Burmese president to visit US since 1966, The Guardian, 20 May 2013.
What Obama Needs to Tell Myanmar’s Leader, The New York Times, 20 May 2013.
International community must act to end atrocities by Thein Sein’s government, Women’s League of Burma, 8 January 2013.
Nobel Laureates release open letter to Obama, Thein Sein, Nobel Women’s Initiative, November 2012.