July 13, 2012
Clinton talks with Burma president
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to declare Burma open to American investment, introducing the long-reclusive country's president to top American business leaders gathered near one of South-East Asia's ancient landmarks.
Following the Obama administration's recent loosening of sanctions against Burma, Clinton met President Thein Sein in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, rewarding him for several pro-democracy reforms while prodding him to do more.
The city adjoins the archaeological site hosting the famous centuries-old temples of Angkor, recalling an earlier age of regional glory.
Clinton and Thein Sein shared a warm greeting in a hotel courtyard, their national flags and tropical foliage behind them.
Clinton asked about Thein Sein's family and told him "I brought a very prestigious business delegation to see you. I wanted them all to hear from you tonight about your plans for the future."
She met the reformist president last year when she became the first US Secretary of State in half-a-century to visit Burma.
They were to go together on Friday night to meet the largest-ever delegation of American businesses to South-East Asia.
Those represented include Coca Cola, Ford, General Electric, General Motors, Goldman Sachs and Google.
The high-profile gathering and meeting reflected the sharp progress the country has made after years in the international wilderness.
Economic and political sanctions had been imposed on Burma's previous military regime for its repressive and undemocratic policies.
Thein Sein, who took power last year after general elections, has instituted liberalising reforms in an effort to ease the sanctions and attract foreign aid and investment.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration gave permission for US companies to invest in Burma and work with its state oil and gas enterprise, a go-ahead that marks the most significant easing of US sanctions against the former pariah state.
But Clinton and other officials have made clear they will keep pushing Burma to improve its human rights record.
Earlier, at a women's event, she said the US was watching with great interest Burma's rolling back of "restrictive and exploitative labour rules".
"Workers are beginning to organise, although they still face stiff penalties for joining unregistered unions. There will be a lot of challenges but I hope that we see continuing progress," she said.