Remarks on U.S. Diplomatic Efforts in Burma
Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma
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I think it’s first important to recognize the progress that has been achieved on human rights. For the better part of two decades, human rights was the core of our Burma policy. And indeed over the last two years, this government has answered and responded to international concerns, including those of the United States, by releasing political prisoners; opening up basic freedoms—of speech, assembly, and the right to form worker unions, for example. And a once-banned opposition party, many of its members imprisoned, is now participating in the process, and indeed some of its leaders, including, Aung San Suu Kyi, are in Parliament. But there is a lot of work left to be done. And human rights is a work in progress.
This past October, our Assistant Secretary of State, then-Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, led an interagency delegation to conduct our first-ever human rights bilateral dialogue. It was very successful. A very honest, frank exchange of the challenges that remain. This is the difference, I say, a government that recognizes the challenges - where it wants to go - and the fact that international help is needed to get there. So these are the kind of things we are doing. In December, I visited Kachin State where conflict reemerged a year and a half ago and threatens the pursuit of national unity. Last week, I visited Racine State where communal violence has had the same negative impact for the country. Our ambassador on the ground, we now have an ambassador for the first time in 22 years, Derek Mitchell is leading the diplomatic corps and collaborating together to provide the government and other stakeholders advice on how to handle these situations.