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Friday, 19 December 2014

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The Myanmar Times

US policy continuity will strengthen reform: analysts

US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden celebrate on stage after Obama delivered his acceptance speech Wednesday, November 7, 2012 in Chicago. (AFP)US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden celebrate on stage after Obama delivered his acceptance speech Wednesday, November 7, 2012 in Chicago. (AFP)

The re-election of US President Barack Obama and continuation of US policy is likely to strengthen the reform process in Myanmar, analysts and politicians said last week.

After imposing sanctions and attempting to isolate Myanmar, the US began reconfiguring its policy in 2009 and has been a key international player since President U Thein Sein initiated the reform process after taking office in March 2011.

President Obama was re-elected comfortably on November 6, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

“[President Obama’s re-election] won’t have a significant direct impact on Myanmar but he will be able to help a lot to ensure the country does not turn back,” said U Win Tin of the National League for Democracy.

U Win Tin’s comment echoed that of US ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell, who repeatedly reassured attendees at a November 7 US election event in Yangon that US policy towards Myanmar would follow the course set by President Obama in his first term.

He also applauded both Democrats and Republicans for showing political unity on Myanmar policy since the 2009 review.

“I expected there to be consistency in US policy,” Mr Mitchell said. “I think this has been a bi-partisan effort. I’ve said that repeatedly.”

He said the level of bipartisanship on Myanmar had been “remarkable” given the deeply divided state of the US Congress – which is set to continue after last week’s election, in which the Democrats held on to control of the senate and Republicans the house.

“[T]his issue, this country [Myanmar], has such a deep commitment from the American people,” Mr Mitchell said.

Murray Hiebert, senior fellow and chair for Southeast Asia studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the policy continuation could include a further easing of US sanctions.

“We should expect continuing moves to ease sanctions and engage the whole government,” Mr Hiebert said.

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