Sunday, August 20, 2017

Yun seeks ‘common ground’ with Myanmar government

Deputy US assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, Mr Joseph Yun, leaves a meeting in Yangon on May 19. Behind him is the US chargé d’affaires in Myanmar, Mr Larry Dinger. Photo: AFPDeputy US assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, Mr Joseph Yun, leaves a meeting in Yangon on May 19. Behind him is the US chargé d’affaires in Myanmar, Mr Larry Dinger. Photo: AFP

A united States diplomat said he tried to find “common ground” in meetings with members of the new government and other stakeholders on an official visit last week.

Mr Joseph Yun, the deputy US assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, met senior government officials as well as representatives of political parties, non-governmental organisations, ethnic minorities and the business community on his three-day visit from May 18 to 20.

He said the purpose of his second visit to the country was to further “ongoing efforts to engage directly with the government” and consult with other stakeholders.

“Again it was to try to find common ground between Washington and Nay Pyi Taw, what we can do. As you know we have a policy of engagement ... I hope my visit will help [further that policy],” he told reporters on May 19, after meeting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence in Yangon.

The US embassy in Yangon said in a statement that Mr Yun “reiterated the US’s willingness to improve bilateral relations through principled engagement, while maintaining that progress would depend on the government taking meaningful, concrete steps toward democratic governance, respect for human rights, and the release of all political prisoners in line with the aspirations of the people and the international community”.

Mr Yun said his discussions with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been “very good”.

“This is my second time here and second time meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. [It was a] very valuable meeting [that] covered much ground, including our relations, not just here, but through the region and beyond.”

On his first day in Myanmar the US diplomat met Minister for Foreign Affairs U Wunna Maung Lwin, Deputy Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw U Nanda Kyaw Swar and the secretary general of the Union Solidarity and Development Party U Htay Oo in Nay Pyi Taw.

Mr Yun said the meetings had been useful, particularly as he was “not very used to this country”.

“I learn a lot each time [I visit] and I’m beginning to learn a lot more.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the meeting was mostly an exchange of opinions.

“We discussed our opinions of the new government, the recent release of prisoners, the current situation of Myanmar, the policy of the US and other issues,” said the 65-year-old leader of deregistered National League for Democracy.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she hoped that the US would continue its policy of engagement.

“In my opinion, we should practice a policy of engagement. [I hope] the US will also see [things] like me,” she said.

Mr Yun also met representatives from registered political parties, including the Democratic Party (Myanmar), National Democratic Force (NDF), Chin National Party, Rakhine Nationalities Development Party and National Unity Party.

Dr Than Win, an Amyotha Hluttaw representative and senior NDF member, said the meeting focused mainly on three issues: the new government, US sanctions and the role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in domestic politics.

“He wanted our opinion on the changes made by the new government. Most of us expect and believe that there will be good changes but it’s too early to say definitively whether [the changes] are bad or good,” Dr Than Win, said adding that the recent amnesty was not enough and government should show more generosity.

Dr Than Win said he told Mr Yun the US should reconsider sanctions as they affect many people.

“At the moment, the US has both engagement and sanctions. It would be better if the engagement is stronger and we think engagement is more effective [than sanctions]. I hope Mr Yun sends to his government our message, which is that we want the US government to relax sanction and totally lift them after a period of time.”

He said the US diplomat asked about collaboration between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and registered political parties. “We (NDF) don’t have any [formal] collaboration with her. But we meet sometimes.”

Dr Nyo Nyo Thinn, a Yangon Region Hluttaw representative for the Democratic Party, said she was hopeful Mr Yun’s visit would lead to improved relations.

“Mr Yun’s trip is the beginning of building relations between the Myanmar and US. The Myanmar government has a desire to build up relations with the US. [Mr Yun] said he’ll take this message to Washington,” Dr Nyo Nyo Thinn said after meeting the US diplomat on May 20.

“When he asked about the funding of political parties, we all replied that we didn’t get any funding from the government,” she added.

“I hope that US will create the better relationship between the two countries.”