US policy toward Myanmar could alter the course of history

Reposted from Asian Journal

The National Asian American Coalition, whose board of directors includes national leadership from Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Filipino American communities, is increasingly concerned that US foreign policy fails to reflect the interests of our nation’s 18 million Asian Americans. This includes our nation’s more than 100,000 Burmese residing in the US.

Our organization recently expressed concerns to the Federal Reserve and the Department of State relating to the Chinese government’s Industrial and Commercial Bank of China financing projects in the South China Sea that could adversely affect the wealth and growth of Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Taiwan.

Recently, to the credit of President Obama and the Department of State, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered encouraging remarks relating to strengthenedeconomic development and political relations with Myanmar.

During course of the debate over the future of Myanmar, the National Asian American Coalition and its colleagues will seek to avoid the errors that have plagued U.S. policy towards Cuba for more than 50 years. These policies have resulted in no economic development or investments by U.S. companies. This has made life far harder on the ordinary Cuban worker.

The Asian American community is captivated by the commitment, charm and political insight of opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Some are also carefully reexamining the military regime and its new leader, President Thein Sein, in terms of their commitments to a more open society. This apparently is also the view of most of the leaders within the European Union.

If Aung San Suu Kya and President Thein Sein can cooperate, eliminate repression and promote community and economic development, the US should consider expediting the assignment of a highly qualified ambassador to Myanmar. We should nominate an ambassador with extraordinary qualifications, such as those held by the former ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman. In fact, he might be a good choice.

Equally important, we should encourage members of the US Chamber of Commerce and major financial institutions in the US to begin to outreach to the Myanmar government, its embryonic business structure and its vibrant people. We should be inviting the Verizonsand the AT&Ts, the Apples and the Googles, and theCitigoups, the JP Morgan Chases and the Goldman Sachsto join us in this effort.

And, we should bring in our agricultural and other experts to assist the world’s former leading exporter of rice to be an exporter of many other products.

The US has much to gain and virtually nothing to lose by offering to the new government of Myanmar a welcoming hand, much as France offered to the US when we were barely a nation struggling against the colonialism of the British Empire.

The Role of Our Nation’s 18 Million Asian Americans in Brining Change and Economic Freedom to 55 Million Burmese

To promote both economic and political development in Myanmar, our nation’s 18 million Asian Americans should consider following the example of America’s five million Jews. More than 60 years ago, they helped move a relatively backward desert nation, Israel, into one of the riches nations in the world, including the most technologically advanced nation in the world.

Based on Myanmar’s renowned history, we believe the same might occur to the talented people of Myanmar if the appropriate level of goodwill, economic opportunities and stimuli are quickly afforded to Myanmar.

Next month, our organization will be holding its Asian Cultural Festival in San Diego, attended by 12,000 Asian Americans from Southern California. Included will be the Burmese American community that has activelyparticipated in our past festivals.

In conjunction with the Burmese American community, we will set up a special exhibit that will reach out to our Fortune 500 corporate sponsors to assist them in bringing freedom and economic development to a nation. Let us not forget, that soon after the Second World War, many leaders believed in Myanmar was destined to be a highly influential and successful nation.

We will also be coordinating with other Asian American leaders across the nation, including our Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and our more than 50 corporate partners that might benefit from investments in Myanmar.


Faith Bautista is the president and CEO for the National Asian American Coalition. Mia Martinez is the director for the National Asian American Coalition’s Washington DC office.


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