Entries in Reform (3)


Obama Pivots to Engage Burma, Sees Reform 'Too Important to Ignore'

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(BALI, Indonesia) -- President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States will engage with the government of Burma after seeing “flickers of progress in these last several weeks … on the path toward reform.”

Clinton will be the first Secretary of State to visit the country in more than half a century when she travels to Burma next month.

Her trip “will explore whether the United States can empower a positive transition in Burma and begin a new chapter between our countries,” Obama said.  “That possibility will depend upon the Burmese government taking more concrete action.  If Burma fails to move down the path of reform it will continue to face sanctions and isolation."

“But if it seizes this moment then reconciliation can prevail and millions of people may get to live with greater measure of freedom, prosperity and dignity," the president added.  "And that possibility is too important to ignore."

“The persecution of democratic reformers, the brutality shown toward ethnic minorities and the concentration of power in the few military leaders has challenged our conscience and isolated Burma from the United States and much of the world,” Obama told reporters covering his trip to Bali, Indonesia for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference.

The U.S. government still refers to the country as Burma, its former name.  The name was changed to Myanmar by the new regime in 1989.

The United States has imposed trade and monetary sanctions against Myanmar over the last decade in response to the oppression, and has openly supported Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest until late last year.

“For decades Americans have been deeply concerned about the denial of basic human rights for the Burmese people,” Obama said.  But now “the government has released some political prisoners, media restrictions have been relaxed and legislation has been approved that could open the political environment.  So taken together, these are the most important steps toward reform in Burma that we’ve seen in years.”

Those steps, he said, offer an opening for a change in relations.

“We want to seize what could be an historic opportunity for progress.  And make it clear that if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform it could forge a new relationship with the United States of America,” Obama said, though he warned that there is much more to be done.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Syrian President Addresses Nation; Blames Violence on 'Saboteurs'

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- As security forces continue a brutal crackdown on protesters in Syria, the country's president addressed the nation Monday, pinning the violence on outside forces who are conspiring against the government.

Speaking on Syrian state TV, Bashar al-Assad blamed the violence in his country on "saboteurs" who are trying to take advantage of the demands for reform.

"What is happening today has nothing to do with reform, it has to do with vandalism," Assad said, according to the BBC.  "There can be no development without stability, and no reform through vandalism.  The demands of the street do not justify inflicting damage on the country."

The Syrian president showed regret for those who have died in protest, the BBC said.  Human rights groups estimate that at least 1,300 civilians have been killed in the country since demonstrations began in March.

Assad added that a national dialogue authority was being established to develop a reform plan, which he believes will be ready by September.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Street Execution Highlights Need for Kenyan Police Reform

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- Kenyan officials confirmed Thursday that three officers have been suspended and placed under investigation after photos surfaced showing them murdering three men who had surrendered in the middle of a busy Nairobi roadway.

The Daily Nation, a leading news outlet in Kenya, first published the photos -- which show an undercover officer pointing a gun at the victims lying on the ground -- Thursday.  A driver at the scene had captured the incident on camera Wednesday morning, according to The New York Times.

The Kenyan police have been called out before regarding "extrajudicial killings." In 2009, the United Nations expressed cause for removal of the country's police commissioner and attorney general at the time.  The Daily Nation has called for an impartial third party to investigate, saying, "This is an instance where the police cannot be entrusted with the task of investigating themselves."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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