Briefing on Burma
Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
USUN PRESS RELEASE #142(09)
(As Delivered Remarks)
Thank you, Mr. President. Let me also offer a particular word of thanks to you, Mr. Secretary-General. The United States joins other Council members in reiterating our strong support for you and your good-offices mission and for your special advisor Ibrahim Gambari. We appreciate your briefing today, and we are especially grateful that you were able to convey critical messages directly to the Burmese government. We also appreciate the presence today of the Permanent Representative of Burma, and we hope that the Burmese government will implement all of the Secretary-General’s recommendations.
Mr. Secretary-General, we note that you were able to meet with Senior General Than Shwe, several members of the National League for Democracy's Central Executive Committee, and representatives of other registered political parties. But we are very disappointed that Burmese authorities refused your request to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. By turning down this simple, straightforward request, the Burmese government missed a critical opportunity to, in your words, "show its commitment to a new era of political openness."
We await the regime’s response to the important challenges that you, Mr. Secretary-General, presented to it during your visit. If the authorities fail to credibly address these challenges, they will miss yet another chance to make meaningful progress on concerns repeatedly uttered by this Council. The path the authorities are pursuing leads to neither democracy nor stability. And it is the Burmese people who will suffer further, if this opportunity to change course is not met.
As 2010 approaches, the government has repeatedly assured us that next year’s elections will be free and fair. But there can be no free and fair elections while key leaders of Burma’s democratic opposition—including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners—languish in Burma’s prisons. We do not seek to dictate Burma’s political future. We merely seek to ensure that the will of all the Burmese people can be heard and respected.
Mr. President, the authorities are clearly not respecting that popular will by putting the leader of the country’s democratic opposition on trial for spurious charges of violating a house arrest that was illegitimate to begin with. We are deeply concerned about these proceedings. We call on the regime to cease its actions against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and to free her immediately and unconditionally.
We are also troubled that the authorities continue to resist addressing the grave human rights challenges facing the country. For example, recent attacks by the Burmese Army and its proxies have forced more than 3,000 ethnic Karen to flee across the border into Thailand. This violence against ethnic minorities destabilizes the area around the international border—and raises a red flag about the government’s treatment of Burma’s ethnic groups. National reconciliation can never be achieved so long as the army continues to attack citizens of its own country.
Such problems cannot be resolved by imposing plans that lack democratic legitimacy on the citizens of Burma. A democratic transition to legitimate civilian rule can be achieved only through a genuine dialogue—and through a vision for the future that is shared by all, including the democratic opposition and all ethnic groups.
Mr. President, we welcome the progress that has been made in the Delta after the devastation wrought by Cyclone Nargis, and we recognize the crucial contribution that the Tripartite Core Group has made to facilitate this progress. We strongly support the Secretary-General’s request to grant outstanding visas to humanitarian aid workers and to broaden humanitarian support beyond the Delta. Advancement toward democracy and stability cannot be made when citizens are struggling to survive.
The Secretary-General has called for immediate action from the Burmese government to avoid more "wasted lives, lost opportunities, and prolonged isolation." We could not agree more. The Secretary-General has noted that Burma cannot face its many challenges alone. Burma’s generals should understand that those of us around this table are ready to help Burma ensure its future stability and restore its past prosperity. The international community has shown that it is willing to help the people of Burma; now it is up to the Burmese authorities to show they are ready to do the same.
Mr. President, the Burmese government has called cooperation with the United Nations a cornerstone of the country's foreign policy. The Secretary-General echoed this statement in his recent speech. Now is the time for Burma to match its words with deeds. We strongly encourage the authorities to seize this opportunity to engage credibly with the international community.
When Burma demonstrates its willingness to respond to the international community’s demands and commit to genuine progress toward reform, the United States stands ready to respond.
Thank you, Mr. President.