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Burmese Young Leaders Have Message for Washington: Sai One Leng Kham

A select group of Burmese Young Leader graduates from the Liberty and Leadership Forum were in Washington meeting with policy makers. In a series of articles, they have outlined Burma’s greatest challenges and the need for U.S. leadership in Asia.

Article by Sai One Leng Kham July 12, 2017 //   3 minute read
Burmese Young Leader graduates from the Liberty and Leadership Forum visiting D.C.

There is so much opportunity in Burma and Asia, unfortunately China, North Korea, and other challenges in the region threaten stability and stifle the spirit of human freedom. To help counter these challenges, the United States must engage with this region, cultivate partnerships, and champion the fundamental rights of people across Asia.

With this in mind, a select group of Burmese Young Leader graduates from the Liberty and Leadership Forum were in Washington, D.C. meeting with policy makers and thought leaders. In a series of articles, they have outlined Burma’s greatest challenges and the need for U.S. leadership in Asia.

Sai One Leng Kham, an elected representative to the Upper Parliament of Myanmar, is the third in a series of Q&A’s with the Bush Institute’s Young Leaders.

Read previous entries in this series:

Htet Htet Oo 

Myo Myint Aung

What are the three biggest challenges for Burma’s parliament?

  1. Our constitution says that the Burmese military must get 25 percent of the seats in parliament. Currently, changing the constitution is not possible without support from the appointed military representatives of parliament.
  2. One party won the majority of seats in parliament so there isn’t much competition of ideas when legislating. 
  3. Parliament is not a strong check and balance on the government because the military controls key ministries in the government such as Home Affairs.

How can the United States better support Burma’s parliament to legislate effectively and respond to voters?

The United States could help introduce lessons learned from other transitions to democracy. Help us understand how better civil-military relations in those transitions evolved and how the legislature and the military can cooperate. 

Is U.S. support for Burma’s democratic transition and its people important? Why?

U.S support for Burma’s democratic transition and its people is important, because Burma has a border with China. Significantly, China is trying influence Burma’s peace process. It is in the United States’ interest to make sure China is not the only voice the Burmese government and people are hearing.

Is U.S. engagement with the countries of Southeast Asia important?  Why?

U.S engagement with countries of Southeast Asia is important because some countries in Southeast Asia are backsliding from democracy, even transitioning to military rule. United States engagement is significant and it helps inspire those countries and people that face challenges in transitioning to democracy.