We Shouldn't Be Optimistic About Burma—or Suu Kyi

Adam Lerner writes that the president has some shortcomings to acknowledge
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2014 1:00 PM CST
We Shouldn't Be Optimistic About Burma—or Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi, center, looks as Barack Obama greets participants following a meeting at Parliamentary Resource Center Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, in Naypyitaw.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Barack Obama is currently in the midst of a three-day visit to Burma, and after an evening meeting with President Thein Sein he expressed that he is "optimistic about the possibilities" for the country. Writing for Politico, Adam Lerner sees "optimism" as the entirely wrong word choice. As the AP recounts, a chief part of Obama's Asia policy has been the country's democratic reforms, the promise of which the US rewarded with suspended sanctions and visits from both Hillary Clinton and Obama. But Obama's three-year-old Burma policy is rife with "serious moral and practical shortcomings," which Lerner sees as "sadly embodied in the faded figure of Aung San Suu Kyi," whom Obama made a crucial part of his policy.

The most egregious issue surrounds the country's Rohingya Muslims, who have suffered violence at the hands of Buddhist mobs and are trapped in dismal camps. They have "no real defenders ... including Suu Kyi," Lerner writes. And so "today, it seems, American foreign policy in the region is tethered to a ... victim of human-rights oppression who appears to be too timid—or or perhaps too political—to denounce ethnic cleansing in her own country." The Rohingya Lerner spoke with believe that if she were to publicly slam those mobs and call on the government to act, her National League for Democracy party could suffer. What Lerner will be watching for: "whether the United States will use whatever influence it might still have to advocate on behalf of the Rohingya, or simply on behalf of its favorite Burmese politician, Aung San Suu Kyi." Full column here. (Read more Aung San Suu Kyi stories.)

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