Reform, presidency on agenda during Shwe Mann’s US tour

Reform, presidency on agenda during Shwe Mann’s US tour

Burma’s parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Tuesday, following talks a day earlier with US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken in Washington DC.

The meetings came following a prior event last week at the Carnegie Center in the US capital where Shwe Mann responded to a direct question, saying that would accept his party’s nomination if selected as a presidential candidate.

The Burmese house speaker, who is also chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), noted on his Facebook page that he met with Ban Ki-moon in New York on Tuesday morning, though he did not divulge any further details. Similarly, the UN secretary-general’s office has not disclosed any information about the substance of the meeting.

The US State Department said that Blinken and Shwe Mann met on Monday at the Harry Truman Building, headquarters of the US State Department, where the pair discussed political reforms in Burma, as well as steps to ensure a free and fair general election later this year, and Naypyidaw’s attitude towards constitutional amendment.

Speaking at a State Department daily press briefing on Monday, spokesperson Jeff Rathke said the two “discussed the importance of inclusive, credible and transparent elections later this year; meaningful political dialogue among all stakeholders to build trust, advance national reconciliation, and support for the democratic transition; as well as the importance of constitutional reform.”

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The spokesman added: “Deputy Secretary Blinken raised concerns regarding the four draft bills purportedly designed to protect race and religion and the status of so-called white card holders. The deputy secretary also stressed the importance of implementing durable solutions to human rights challenges in Burma and asked for a transparent and independent investigation into the use of force against protestors.”

A Burmese delegation led by Shwe Mann arrived in the USA on 30 April as per an invitation from US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner. On 2 May, Burmese activists in the US protested outside of the Burmese embassy building in DC, demanding the release of student protestors and activists detained in Letpadan, Pegu Division, in March.

On Friday, Shwe Mann, formerly a joint chief of staff in the armed forces under the previous ruling military junta, spoke at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the US capital. Asked whether he would run for president, he said, “Of course if the USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party] nominated me as a presidential candidate, I would be happy to accept.”

It was not the first time Shwe Mann had disclosed his presidential ambition. On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in 2013, he had similarly responded that he would accept the nomination if asked by his party.

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