Thursday, June 11, 2009

Suu Kyi Trial Complicates US Burma Policy Review

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — The Obama Administration is finding it difficult to move forward in engaging Burma because of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, Obama’s choice for top diplomat in East Asia said on Wednesday.

“The recent events with Aung San Suu Kyi are just deeply, deeply concerning, and it makes it very difficult going forward,” said Kurt Campbell, the Obama nominee for assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told US lawmakers during his confirmation hearing.

“We're in the midst of a very sensitive review,” he said. “We are looking at the situation of the trial and what the junta is considering going forward. It will play into our review.” Campbell appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Referring to a statement made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her maiden tour to Asia this year, Campbell said, “What she said out in the region stands for itself. I think she was very clear about what—the approach the administration has taken. And as a general practice, we're prepared to reach out, not just in Burma but in other situations as well.”

When asked about the administration’s view on the 2010 Burmese elections, Campbell said: “Well, some of the discussions that we have had to date surround whether recent actions of the junta are designed to create a different domestic context for the upcoming 2010 elections. The truth is that we have an embassy there, we have sources of information.”

“I think at the current juncture, given that I'm unconfirmed and that I am not privy to some of the most sensitive deliberations, I would simply say that we are looking closely at all developments inside Burma, and this is very high on Clinton’s list of issues in Southeast Asia.”

He termed it as “hypothetical” to assume that “Burma would honor the items that are in its proposed constitution, which move, however imperfectly, toward a multi-party system and open elections.”

Observing that the developments inside Burma have implications for Suu Kyi's party, Campbell said: “All I can tell you is that I think in the past there has been a determination that not much could be done; let us live with our sanctions. I think there is a very high-level degree of interest in seeing what is possible going forward and a deep sense of disappointment in the recent steps that the junta's taken towards Aung San Suu Kyi.”

In remarks before the committee, Sen James Webb said for the number of years he has advocated a different approach in Burma.

“I have had some good discussions with Sec Clinton about this over the past couple of years, before she became secretary of State and afterwards. Aung San Suu Kyi's ongoing trial is the latest incident in a cycle that's been virtually unchanged for 60 years, actually, not 20, as some people comment.”

In that time, particularly over the past 10 years, the United States' ability to influence events in Burma has steadily waned. Businesses, NGOs, government groups have been ousted, he argued.

“Meanwhile, other countries, not only China but most notably China, are more engaged than ever, with infrastructure projects, mineral resources. China just signed a large oil deal,” he pointed out.

“On the one hand, I would like to say very clearly, as someone who has advocated a different approach, the situation presently with Aung San Suu Kyi is unacceptable to any of us who have advocated varying approaches with respect to Burma. But on the other, we need to look at a different way of doing things,” Webb said.

Earlier in his prepared statement, Campbell said the people of Burma deserve better than what they now have.

“As secretary Clinton said in Jakarta, neither our sanctions-based approach nor Asean’s engagement approach have worked, so the Administration is reviewing policy options with the goal of finding more effective ways to encourage dialogue among the military, the opposition, and the ethnic nationalities, release of political prisoners and broad-based reform,” he said.

“The recent actions by the Burmese Junta against Aung San Suu Kyi are deeply troubling, and we are factoring these developments into our ongoing policy review,” he said.

“While I cannot prejudge the outcome of the policy review, I can say that my approach— if confirmed—will be to engage widely with Congress, with our partners in the region, and with people who know Burma in order to come up with practical, realistic ideas on how we can best encourage Burma to move in a more positive direction,” Campbell said.

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too