May 18, 2013

US proposes $75.4-m aid for Myanmar

To encourage the Myanmar Government to continue with its reforms, the US has proposed $75.4-million aid for fiscal 2014 to the South East Asian country, a substantial increase of $28.8 million from 2012.

However, some US lawmakers have expressed concerns over such a decision by the Obama administration arguing that this increase in US aid to Myanmar is premature given the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in the country for past several months and continued detention of political prisoners.

“While, we have seen tremendous progress over the course of only two years, Myanmar is fraught with ongoing violence in the ethnic areas which, in many cases, is being perpetrated by the Burmese military,” said Congressman Steve Chabot, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

Military aid

Chabot and other lawmakers also opposed the idea of giving any military aid to Myanmar at this point of time.

“I’m aware that the administration is considering providing military assistance to Myanmar. I believe, with the slow moving reform process and numerous human rights issues, providing military aid is probably premature and may face considerable opposition in this Congress,” Chabot said.

Acknowledging the reforms going on in the country, Chabot said that the visit of Burmese President Thein Sein was premature.

“I think President Thein Sein’s visit to the White House next week is perhaps a bit premature, while we have seen advances that is too early, in my view, to proclaim a new day in Myanmar,” Chabot said.

Joseph Y. Yun, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told lawmakers that for the fiscal 2014, the budgetary request expands bilateral funding for Myanmar to $75.4 million, an increase of $28.8 million from fiscal 2012.

“The United States is supporting a historic political and economic transition in Myanmar and is taking an active role in a country in which we are seeing a great shift with regard to respect for human rights and good governance.

Although many challenges remain in Myanmar, the country’s nascent transformation demonstrates the possibility for significant change that exists in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Source: The Hindu Business Line