Remarks Upon Departure from Chulalongkorn University

Scot Marciel
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Bangkok, Thailand
November 5, 2009

Question: (Inaudible). What are the most important things she said to you?

Ambassador Marciel: Really, particularly since she isn’t able to speak to the press, I don’t really want to try to speak on her behalf or comment on what she said. I would just say we had a very full and meaningful conversation with her about a wide range of issues on Burma. But I want to be careful not to characterize what she said.

Question: What would be a realistic timeframe for the election. And you mentioned that the government, you are waiting to see if the government (inaudible). What would you consider to be the single moment (inaudible) complete (inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: I don’t want to sort of speculate on the timeframe for the election. We didn’t get any indication of when they would be other than next year sometime. It would seem that if there’s going to be any hope of elections that actually produce progress, there needs to be plenty of time ahead for this dialogue to sort of create the conditions. Beyond that, I don’t know. In terms of what they could do, I mean frankly, there are a whole lot of things that we would like them to do.

Question: (Inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: Well, they can do a lot of things. They can release political prisoners, all the political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi. They can stop attacks against ethnic groups. They can begin this dialogue. There’s a whole host of things that we would like them to do. I don’t want to pick one over the other.

Question: The U.S., (inaudible) the U.S. facilitator meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and with members of the Committee of the NLD, she actually rejected this. Is that correct? (Inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: What we have been urging, as have others for some time, is that the government allow her to meet with the NLD Central Executive Committee. So I wouldn’t say we facilitated. I would say we’ve been urging that. We understand there was some discussion between the government and her about that, but I don’t know all the details.

QUESTION: If she’s turning down these rare opportunities to meet with her party, that’s not pushing this dialogue that you're pulling for, it’s not much progress towards that. This must be a setback.

Ambassador Marciel: Again, I think it’s important to talk to the NLD about this. I don’t want to speak for her or the NLD on this. I think it was more complicated than that.

Question: (Inaudible) from Myanmar, (inaudible) will be released?

Ambassador Marciel: They didn’t make any promises like that.

Question: (Inaudible) release after (inaudible). They used to release a few prisoners.

Ambassador Marciel: First, they did not make any such promises. And let me stress, it’s very important that there be sustained progress. We’re not looking to take a trip, they release five prisoners and then arrest five more the next week. That’s not the kind of progress we’re looking for. What real progress would mean would be release of all political prisoners, beginning a dialogue, these sorts of things. That’s why I stress, we’re being very clear here. We want to move forward, but we will be looking for real, sustained progress.

Question: (Inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: I think there are a lot of things we could do to improve the relationship, and we’re not going to do a sort of tit for tat, if you do this, we’ll do that. I think you have to look at sort of objectively what’s happening in Burma and come to some conclusion as to whether there’s progress, then there are things we can do in terms of more on a diplomatic side and other steps, a whole range of things we can do.

Question: (Inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: We’re talking about a whole range of things we can do. As I said, we’re not saying if you do X, we’ll do Y. More if you make progress, these are the sorts of areas where we can move in.

Question: Are there any prerequisites? Does Suu Kyi have to be released before the election? Or suppose they just let her have a dialogue with NLD? Is that sufficient?

Ambassador Marciel: I think, as I said, we need to see sustained progress. I want to be careful not to say if they just do X, that’s good enough, because there are a lot of scenarios where they make progress in one area and backtrack in another. So I think what we want to see is broad progress. Certainly release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners we think is critical to that. Release of Aung San Suu Kyi no matter, while it would be very important and very positive, does not solve all the problems.

Question: Why do you think Senator Jim Webb was allowed to meet (inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: You’d have to ask the Burmese government that. I don’t know.

Question: How much of a setback --

Question: I have two questions. One about Thailand. Because the situation along the border is very, very serious, and more and more refugees are expected to flood into Thailand. So how what is your concern, comment? Also did you mention this with the Burmese authorities?

Second question. Are you concerned that the nuclear issue, but would you like to ask the issue directly to North Korea, (inaudible), and also from other players? I think it is, (inaudible) didn’t want to mention the company name, China, so what do you think China feedback on this (inaudible) in Burma?

Ambassador Marciel: First on the refugee issue. We appreciate the fact that Thailand has taken and hosted a significant number of refugees. It’s unfortunate that those refugees have to leave their country because of conflict, but we appreciate what Thailand has done and want to keep working with the Thai authorities.

We hope that there are not more refugees. Of course, should there be, we’re confident that Thai authorities will handle them and treat them in a humanitarian way, and if we can be helpful, we certainly will.

On the nuclear issue, you have a lot of issues here, but fundamentally there’s a UN Security Council resolution on what North Korea is allowed to do, and I think all the members of the Security Council and the UN have an interest in working together on that.

I would just, on your very last point about a growing U.S. presence in Burma, there actually isn’t a growing U.S. presence in Burma. We have an embassy, as we’ve had, and now we’ve had a meeting, a set of meetings there, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a growing presence.

Question: You mentioned many times about the dialogue. (Inaudible) sustained and what the role of the U.S. in the dialogue? Mediator or (inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: Of course, I did stress too many times probably for you the importance of a dialogue. Obviously it’s not enough that there just be meetings that don’t make progress. The whole point of a dialogue is to see if there can be some common ground among the various key players, including the government, the opposition, and the ethnic minority groups. And of course what we would like to see is a dialogue that leads to progress.

It’s not for us, I think, to define that progress but rather for the people inside the country. And if they were to have a dialogue and they’d say there’s significant progress, we would certainly welcome that.

Question: Can an election without Aung San Suu Kyi participating (inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: I think an election without Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD would be, it would be very hard to see that as credible. But in the end, I think it’s up for Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD to make that call, too.

Question: (Inaudible) of Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD. The U.S. sanctions (inaudible).

Ambassador Marciel: There are a lot of scenarios going ahead. I don’t want to say if this happens we’ll do this, or if something doesn’t happen we won’t, because there are a lot of scenarios.

The bottom line, I think, is that if the political process -- it’s not just about the elections, it’s about the entire political process, before the elections, during, and after. If that is not a fully inclusive process that includes the participation of the party and the parties that won the vast majority of the votes in the last election, it’s very hard for me to see how it would be credible.

Now there are lots of details associated with that, but the fundamental point is if the key parties that won the majority in the last election do not participate, I think you can draw your own conclusions. It’s very hard for me to see how that’s credible.

Question: So did you discuss about the release of all political prisoners and the need for any, any message from (inaudible)? And another thing is, what did you know about American-Burmese (inaudible) trial (inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: We have repeatedly and consistently called for the release of all political prisoners, and so we continue to do that. And again, rather than talking about what people said to us, I think the question is will they release political prisoners, and we’ll wait for that.

Question: (Inaudible)?

Ambassador Marciel: I want to be very careful here not to put adjectives next to these meetings. We went for an initial set of meetings. We were very focused on being able to have access to a wide range of people, particularly the opposition and the ethnic minority groups. And this is early in the process so I don’t want to really characterize it.

# # #