Advice for Secretary Kerry from Burma

By Fred Hiatt (The Washington Post)

Is it an omen that one of Secretary of State John Kerry’s first photo ops was with four women activists from Burma? I hope so — hope that it is a sign he will be a consistent champion of democracy, civil society and female empowerment.

The four courageous women, whom Kathleen Parker wrote about Wednesday, dropped by The Post after their Wednesday morning session with Kerry. They are among thousands of Burmese who have been at least partly liberated by that nation’s recent transition from stultifying dictatorship to something between autocracy and freedom. Liberated in many cases literally, from prison, and liberated to form associations and encourage grass-roots democracy in ways that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago.

They had words of both optimism and caution for U.S. policy makers. All four said they can operate in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the capital of Myanmar (formerly Burma), without fear. But they also said the military and ex-military who ran the country before still run the country — and it’s not clear they intend to give up power.

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