Ending a three-day visit to Myanmar, Senator John McCain warned the country’s leaders that “the winds of change” now blowing in the Middle East could spread if governments do not listen to the needs of their people. “Governments that shun evolutionary reforms now will eventually face revolutionary change later,” he told reporters at a news conference in the main city, Yangon, according to wire service reports.
He urged the government to free political prisoners and to assure the safety of the pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who said recently that she was planning to travel through the country on her first foray outside Yangon since being released from house arrest last November. “Aung San Suu Kyi’s last attempt to travel freely was marred by violence, and the new government’s ability and willingness to prevent a similar outcome this time will be an important test of their desire for change,” Mr. McCain said. In 2003, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s convoy was attacked in what some of her supporters believe was an assassination attempt organized by the government. She was returned to house arrest after just a year of freedom.
Although the military remains in control in Myanmar, Mr. McCain said a civilian government elected in November “represents some change from the past, and one illustration of this change was their willingness to allow me to return to this country after 15 years worth of attempts to do so on my part were rejected.” But he added: “Without concrete actions by this government that signal a deeper commitment to democratic change, there should be no easing or lifting of sanctions.”