Thursday, July 23, 2009

US and Burma Meet in Phuket

The Irrawaddy News

PHUKET, Thailand— A senior US official told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that US officials from Hillary Clinton’s delegation held a bilateral meeting with Burmese officials on Wednesday evening in Thailand’s resort island of Phuket.

“They met yesterday—a small group from the State Department and a small group from Burma,” said a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) shakes hand with Burma's Foreign Minister Nyan Win (C) while Malaysia Foreign Minister Dato' Anifah bin Haji Aman (L) looks on during the signing of Treaty of Amity and Cooperation between the US and the Asian bloc on the Thai island of Phuket. US officials held a rare meeting with a delegation from Burma on the sidelines of the ARF. (Photo: AFP)

He said the US officials at the meeting expressed the importance of Burma hearing the terms of the UN Security Council Resolution 1874 on North Korea.

The resolution included calls on all UN member states to carry out inspections of North Korean ships that may be carrying equipment related to weapons of mass destruction and to increase vigilance over financial dealings with Pyongyang.

The official said that the outcome of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention would have a “direct effect” on the next step of engagement regarding their bilateral relationship, adding this meant that if the Burmese authorities released Suu Kyi, the US would be prepared to look at “positive measures.”

Scot Marciel, who is currently deputy assistant secretary East Asia and Pacific Bureau and ambassador for Asean affairs, led the US delegation, which lasted for 90 minutes, according to the official.

Burma’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win reportedly led the Burmese delegation, but the US official said the former army officer had nothing to say except that they would take the messages back to senior leaders in Naypyidaw. The official added that “the Burmese basically listened.” (JEG's: you might as well phone connect directly with the general and deal with him directly that way... "no-harm" done)

Responding to questions on the US policy review for Burma, the official said their policy was “very consistent” in calling for the Burmese authorities to “release Suu Kyi and the other 2,100 political prisoners,” and for the junta to open the country up to a participatory political process with free elections.

The Burmese foreign minister and the Burmese delegation declined to comment on the issue when The Irrawaddy approached them.

“I have no more to say as I am very tired from talking [at the meeting]… so no more comment,” Nyan Win said in Burmese. (JEG's: but he was listening, not talking read above...)

Burmese officials usually avoid speaking to reporters when abroad over sensitive issues for fear of punishment or dismissal by senior leaders.

This is the second meeting between the two countries that has taken place outside Burma. In 2007, Burmese officials and American State Department officials held an unpublicized meeting in Beijing.

The Beijing meeting, which came at the request of the Burmese military junta, was thought to herald a shift in the Bush administration’s US policy. The frank exchange of opinions on both sides was thought to include the continued detention of Suu Kyi, US sanctions and the political situation in Burma.

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