Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor


The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. Mission in Burma to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Burma's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at 2009-2017.state.gov.

Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. goal is to support the movement of Burma from an authoritarian regime to one that is open and representative, that respects human rights and the rule of law, and that plays a positive, responsible role in the region. U.S. Government human rights and democracy objectives include the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, advocating for the rights of political prisoners such as Aung San Suu Kyi, an end to the government's repression of ethnic minorities, and unrestricted access to all parts of the country for humanitarian organizations and diplomats. The United States undertook a policy review in 2009 resulting in a decision to raise the level of interactions with the regime as an additional means to achieve these core human rights and democracy objectives.

In the interim, senior U.S. Government officials have engaged senior levels of the regime on human rights and democracy. The U.S. Government has stressed that in order to improve relations with the United States and the international community, the government must make progress on core concerns, including: releasing political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; easing restrictions on individuals, organizations, religious groups, and political parties so that they may assemble, speak, and operate freely; entering into a meaningful dialogue with democratic and ethnic groups on national reconciliation and political transition; and respecting the human rights of all citizens.

Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States continues to support courageous Burmese who strive for democracy and human rights. U.S. officials meet frequently with a variety of opposition leaders, ethnic leaders, religious leaders, and civil society actors to ensure that they are aware of U.S. support for their cause. The U.S. Government is expanding interaction with government officials, including career bureaucrats and the military, in order to increase understanding of U.S. perspectives on political reform and provide opportunities to identify and cultivate those who might support reform or play useful roles in a future democratic government. U.S. officials have spoken out forcefully on the failure of Burma’s electoral law and procedures to meet minimum democratic standards for free and fair elections. The U.S. Government also continues to advocate for improvements in economic governance in response to the military regime’s mismanagement of the economy and exploitation of Burma's natural resources for its own enrichment, to the detriment of Burma's population. The United States maintains targeted sanctions against the regime as leverage to press for democratic reform and human rights. The U.S. Government actively works to identify individuals and companies that support or receive benefits from the regime and impede the country's transition to democracy, implementing sanctions against these targets to discourage them from cooperating with the regime.

The United States actively supports the work of UN agencies in the country, especially labor agencies, which seek to bring the regime into compliance with international labor obligations and end the use of forced labor and the recruitment of child soldiers. The United States actively supports the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which advocates for the stateless, predominantly Muslim Rohingya minority. U.S. officials frequently visit the Thai-Burma border to monitor living conditions of Burmese refugees in the Thai refugee camps. To combat the serious problem of trafficking in persons, the United States funds antitrafficking programs of international NGOs operating in the country. The United States encourages the regime to improve enforcement of its antitrafficking laws, strengthen protections offered to trafficking victims, and cooperate with NGOs and UN agencies.

The U.S. Government has a vigorous public diplomacy program which engages in democracy and human rights-oriented capacity-building efforts at the American Center in Rangoon and in other venues. Many citizens see these centers as havens and beacons of openness in this restrictive environment. The United States has expanded its budget to include public diplomacy-related scholarships, visitor and speaker programs, English language classes, and community empowerment training. The United States continues to make use of Fulbright scholarships, Humphrey fellowships, International Visitor Leadership Program grants, and other exchanges to identify the country's future leaders and develop their understanding of democratic values. In order to provide the country's inhabitants with accurate, unbiased news and information, the United States provides assistance to external media organizations. Given the regime's resilience, the United States also focuses efforts on laying the groundwork for future change -- strengthening civil society; improving and expanding private education; assisting grassroots livelihood development; and helping meet public health needs. In doing so, the United States intends to create a better-educated, skills-based, and informed populace that is able to think critically and act independently, especially in the political realm. The U.S. Government also funds, through a small grants program, activities that encourage creative village-level activities such as libraries, community centers, and grassroots development projects.