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May 31 2012

SENATOR COLLINS MEETS WITH NOTED BURMESE POLITICAL DISSIDENT AUNG SAN SUU KYI

Collins meets with Aung San Suu Kyi during the opposition leader’s first trip outside of Burma after nearly two decades of house arrest

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, who is on an official visit this week to Southeast Asia, met today with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the World Economic Forum in Bangkok, Thailand. This is Ang San Suu Kyi’s first trip abroad since she was released from nearly two decades of house arrest and elected to parliament in April.

 

“We discussed my visit to Burma and she expressed "cautious optimism" about the changes that have occurred during the past year as the new quasi-civilian government has taken tentative steps toward democracy, including recent elections in which Suu Kyi won a seat in Parliament,” said Senator Collins.

 

Earlier this week, Senator Collins, who is Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was in Burma where she met with government and parliamentary leaders, including President Thein Sein. Senator Collins also met with civil society and political activists while she was in Burma. 

 

Burma (also known as Myanmar) was ruled for nearly 50 years by a military junta with a reputation for serious human rights abuses of its citizens.  In March 2011, power was officially transferred to a quasi-civilian parliamentary government consisting of the Union Government and headed by President Sein and the bicameral Union Parliament.  The U.S. did recently announce that it is conditionally easing sanctions on Burma.  Despite progress, the political and economic situation remains fragile. 

 

To mark Senator Collins' visit to Thailand, the U.S. Embassy is hosting "Promote Maine" week.  Asia is one of Maine's key growth areas for trade.  Thailand is a significant market for Maine products, with nearly $6 million in exports last year.  Tomorrow, the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, will host a special breakfast with several leading Thai and U.S. business leaders as part of an effort to help strengthen commercial ties and promote Maine exports.  The Embassy has been coordinating with the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, the Maine International Trade Center, the Maine Office of Tourism, and the Maine Lobster Promotion Council to provide Embassy visitors and guests with information on Maine tourism and business opportunities.  The breakfast will also feature blueberries, maple syrup, Maine-made coffee, and other leading Maine exports.