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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Myanmar President Thein Sein at the Presidential Palace in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, Aug. 9, 2014 (State Department photo).

U.S. Policy on Myanmar Under Fire as Promise of Reform Dims

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014

In August, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was about to embark on a trip to Myanmar for a set of regional meetings, more than 70 lawmakers drafted a letter to him warning that disturbing developments in the country called for a “significant recalibration” in U.S.-Myanmar ties. Coming more than two years after the Obama administration eased sanctions in response to historic reforms, the incident is just the latest episode revealing ongoing frictions among the White House, Congress and other actors over evolving U.S. policy in Myanmar.

Since the transition from a military dictatorship to a nominally civilian government led by President Thein Sein in March 2011, Myanmar, labeled one of the world’s most repressive regimes for decades, has undergone a series of sweeping reforms. The government has, among other things, freed hundreds of political prisoners, allowed opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi to re-enter politics after 15 years of house arrest and made some progress toward signing cease-fire agreements with ethnic groups to resolve long-standing hostilities. In line with Obama’s inaugural pledge to “extend a hand” if regimes are willing to unclench their fists, the administration eased sanctions, and Obama himself became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot Myanmar in November 2012. ...

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