By LALIT K JHA
New York Congressman Joseph Crowley.
WASHINGTON—Top US lawmaker Joseph Crowley will travel to Burma later this week, making him the first US diplomat to visit this Southeast Asian nation since Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, made a historic trip last month.
While in Burma on Jan. 12-13, New York Congressman Crowley is expected to meet with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic minority leaders, as well as government officials.
“I am visiting the country to assess the situation on the ground, as well as to encourage the government to continue on the path of reform. While the government has taken some steps in the direction of reform, there is more that needs to be done,” Crowley said.
“I am also very much looking forward to my meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi, a leader I have admired for years,” said Crowley, who has been leader of pro-Burma activities in the US House of Representatives.
Crowley has spearheaded efforts to strengthen sanctions on Burma’s military leaders through the Block Burmese JADE Act, authoring legislation to renew the ban on all imports from Burma contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, and leading the successful effort to award Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal.
Crowley will travel to Burma from India where he is travelling as a member of a Congressional delegation.
Crowley said that, in the immediate wake of Clinton's visit, the Burmese government needs to show to the world it is serious about reform, and that this policy is irreversible, by take concrete actions including an immediate end to the ongoing human rights abuses.
“Secretary Clinton’s trip turned the global spotlight on Burma, but the onus for change ultimately lies in the hands of those who hold the levers of power—the ruling government of Burma and its military,” he told The Irrawaddy in an interview.
“If there is going to be genuine change, one thing is clear—it must start with concrete action that includes an immediate end to ongoing human rights abuses,” he said.
Crowley had alleged that the regime and the military are repressive. “It is engaged in rape, murder, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Burma. They have a long way to go before they will convince me that they are in fact on a path towards democracy,” he said.
Referring to the recent statement by US President Barack Obama that there is a “flicker of progress” in Burma, Crowley said, “I think the US is there to blow a little oxygen into it and add some kindling to it, to demonstrate the willingness of the United States to move Burma towards democracy.”