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Reform 'work in progress' - archbishop

Says Hillary Clinton's visit a good step but state needs to do more

Hillary Clinton meets Myanmar's deputy foreign minister Dr Myo Myint on her arrival in Naypyidaw yesterday Hillary Clinton meets Myanmar's deputy foreign minister Dr Myo Myint on her arrival in Naypyidaw yesterday
  • ucanews.com reporters, Yangon and Mandalay
  • Myanmar
  • December 1, 2011
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Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon said yesterday that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to the country signaled significant change in the country but that President Thein Sein had much left to accomplish to convince the world and the people of Myanmar that democratic reform was real and lasting.

The comments came on the eve of a historic meeting between the president and Clinton, who arrived in the administrative capital Naypyidaw yesterday.

Archbishop Bo, who also serves as the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, said today's visit to Myanmar by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled that the government had made significant changes but noted that true democratic reform required substantially more effort.

“The government needs to release the remaining political prisoners to show that they are serious about democratic reform,” he told ucanews.com, adding that ceasefire agreements between the military and ethnic minority opposition forces were also urgently needed.

Years of armed conflict have had a devastating impact on the country’s infrastructure and educational system, Archbishop Bo said.

“Through peace alone can the government bring development to the country and improve education. Without proper education to an international standard, we will remain in the dark.”

He added that a primary concern for the Church, amid more general issues of democratic reform, was access to conflict areas in Myanmar and communities in need of relief assistance, particularly in Kachin state, where fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and government forces has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of residents.

Clinton, the first US secretary of state to visit Myanmar in half a century, arrived after months of discussions among US officials about the significance and extent of reforms in the country, according to a briefing statement issued by the US state department.

“[Clinton] comes with a series of very specific steps that we would like to see in terms of the next phase of the process that is under way inside [Myanmar],” the statement said.

Clinton is to meet Myanmar’s foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, today ahead of a scheduled meeting with President Thein Sein.

“We expect this to be a very thorough review of not only the steps that they have taken, what we expect to see in the future, but the things that the United States is prepared to do in response not only to these preliminary steps, but what might be possible if the process of reform and openness continues,” the statement said.

Clinton will also meet members of the upper and lower houses of parliament today before flying to Yangon, where she will meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, members of the National League for Democracy and representatives of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, before leaving Myanmar tomorrow.
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