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Burma and Tibet again (fwd)
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> In the public domain. Circulation unrestricted.
> | Statement of
> | Kent Wiedemann
> | Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
> | Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
> | September 7, 1995
> | Before the House Committee on International Relations
> | Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee
> | U.S. Policy Toward Burma
> | ------------------------
> | Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before
> | the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee on behalf of the
> | Department of State. I am pleased to discuss with you today
> | our common concerns about the situation in Burma and explore
> | how we can best advance U.S. interests there.
> | THE RELEASE OF AUNG SAN SUU KYI
> | The release of Aung San Suu Kyi July 10 was a dramatic
> | development in Burma. After many years of determined effort by
> | the United States and the international community, the
> | democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate was released
> | after nearly six years of house arrest. As the courageous hero
> | of the opposition forces in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi has earned
> | the support of her people and the respect and admiration of the
> | world for her determination and steadfastness in holding to her
> | principles throughout the long years of house arrest.
> | Importantly, her release appears to be unconditional. She has
> | been free to meet with her family, key supporters, the press
> | and other visitors. In her meetings and statements, Aung San
> | Suu Kyi has been remarkably conciliatory and magnanimous. She
> | said she personally bears members of the SLORC no ill will and
> | emphasizes her commitment to engage in a dialogue with them to
> | seek national reconciliation. She wants to hold the SLORC to
> | its avowed aim of creating a multi-party democracy. She has
> | emphasized that the divisions in Burma are not insurmountable
> | and has called for all the citizens of Burma to work together
> | for the good of the country.
> | Aung San Suu Kyi has also called upon the international
> | community to remain steadfast in support of democratic change
> | for Burma. As she herself has pointed out, her release is only
> | the beginning of what promises to be a long, slow process.
> | Aung San Suu Kyi's release does not diminish our serious
> | concerns about human rights abuses in Burma or about the extent
> | to which the drug trade remains ingrained in the political and
> | economic life of the country. The Administration will continue
> | to press the SLORC to make progress on these concerns. Our
> | ultimate goal, one that we will continue to express clearly,
> | remains the same: a stable democratic Burma that respects
> | international norms. But we do not hold unrealistic
> | expectations that the SLORC will transform itself overnight.
> | Nor do we underestimate its intent to retain its grip on power
> | and to dictate the pace of change.
> | U.S. POLICY TOWARD BURMA
> | In order to place Aung San Suu Kyi's release and re-emergence
> | on the political scene into context, I would like to review
> | briefly recent U.S. policy toward Burma.
> | In November 1994 Deputy Assistant Secretary Tom Hubbard led the
> | most senior U.S. delegation to visit Burma since 1988. The
> | purpose of his mission, which was dispatched by the President,
> | was to emphasize to the Burmese government the strong U.S.
> | interest in progress on human rights, democracy, and
> | counternarcotics. He made clear to senior SLORC officials that
> | the United States wants to have better relations with Burma,
> | but stressed any improvement must be based on progress in these
> | critical areas of concern. He told them that U.S. relations
> | with Burma could improve if the SLORC made progress in each of
> | these areas, but would worsen if it did not.
> | Since Mr. Hubbard's visit, the SLORC has had a decidedly mixed
> | record in responding to the "two roads" he outlined for
> | U.S.-Burma relations.
> | The most dramatic positive step, of course, was the release of
> | Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been able to confer on an almost
> | daily basis with her chief advisers and to meet with National
> | League for Democracy officials from throughout the country.
> | She continues to address crowds in front of her residence on
> | weekends. Some 130 other political prisoners also have been
> | released, including Aung San Suu Kyi's close advisers Kyi Maung
> | and Tin Oo.
> | However, the SLORC's actions fall far short of what is needed
> | to end its abuses of its citizens' rights and thus to lay the
> | foundation for improved relations with the United States. Aung
> | San Suu Kyi's release must be followed by meaningful efforts to
> | engage her and other members of the democracy movement in a
> | process aimed at national reconciliation and the restoration of
> | democracy. Thus far, unfortunately, the SLORC has sought to
> | marginalize Aung San Suu Kyi, including keeping her from
> | participating in the national constitutional convention set to
> | reconvene in October. That convention has been manipulated by
> | the SLORC to perpetuate authoritarian military rule. In
> | addition, hundreds of political prisoners remain jailed, and
> | the SLORC continues to arrest and sentence Burmese for the
> | slightest political infraction. No indigenous organizations in
> | Burma are allowed to function truly independently of the
> | government. The International Committee of the Red Cross
> | closed its office in Burma at the end of July after being
> | unable to conclude a prison visit agreement with the SLORC.
> | Egregious human rights violations continue. Burmese citizens
> | are routinely rounded up and forced to carry military equipment,
> | weapons and ammunition for the Burmese Army. In addition to
> | being denied adequate food and water, these porters are often
> | forced to work, at great risk, in areas of armed conflict. The
> | SLORC also compels its citizens to carry out forced labor on
> | roads, railroads and other infrastructure projects. We
> | understand the SLORC recently introduced an internal decree
> | calling for the suspension of forced labor by the army, but we
> | have yet to see indications this is being enforced.
> | The SLORC's renewed military offensives against the Karen and
> | Karenni minorities have led to serious humanitarian concerns
> | and sent more than 10,000 refugees fleeing into Thailand.
> | The refugees have put a substantial new burden on the Thai
> | government and the NGO's whvernment. The Burmese Army has also
> | continued to attack the Shan United Army and taken significant
> | casualties in an effort to regain control of the territory
> | Khun Sa controls. Although not the main reason for the Burmese
> | Army's attacks on the Shan United Army, this has had the welcome
> | effect of disrupting Khun Sa's ability to traffic in drugs. The
> | military attacks are part of an overall SLORC offensive to
> | maintain national unity in the face of longstanding ethnic
> | insurgencies. However, the SLORC must still take serious steps
> | to deny legitimacy to other important narco-traffickers and to
> | end corruption. The authorities in Rangoon are not likely to
> | succeed in the fight against drugs unless they find a way to
> | exercise legitimate authority in drug-producing areas, which
> | principally are those controlled by ethnic insurgents.
> | In the past several years, the United States has steadily
> | increased our pressure on the military regime in Rangoon. We
> | suspended our own economic aid program and have urged other
> | potential donors like Japan to limit strictly any development
> | assistance to Burma. We do not provide GSP trade preferences
> | and have decertified Burma as a narcotics cooperating country,
> | which requires us by law to vote against assistance to Burma by
> | international financial institutions. This and our influence
> | with other countries have in practice prevented most assistance
> | to Burma from the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development
> | Bank. Neither Eximbank nor OPIC provides loans or insurance
> | for American companies selling to or investing in Burma. The
> | United States has not had an ambassador in Burma since 1990.
> | On the international level, the Administration has strongly
> | supported efforts in the United Nations General Assembly, the
> | UN Human Rights Commission and the International Labor
> | Organization to condemn human and worker rights violations in
> | Burma. We have urged the UN to play an active role in
> | promoting democratic reform through a political dialogue with
> | Aung San Suu Kyi. We refrain from selling arms to Burma and
> | have an informal agreement with our G-7 friends and allies to
> | do the same.
> | These measures have had an impact on the SLORC. While the
> | regime has sought, increasingly, to open the countress of
> | political reconciliation and eventual installation of a
> | democratically-elected government. The President also
> | emphasized the seriousness of the unresolved human rights
> | problems in Burma and the humanitarian concerns connected with
> | ongoing military campaigns against ethnic insurgents. Our
> | objective is to respond to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in a
> | way to help the process of democratization and promote progress
> | on other U.S. national interests.
> | We must let Aung San Suu Kyi and the democratic opposition take
> | the lead in pursuing political reform and national
> | reconciliation. We should offer steady and clear support, but
> | obviously cannot dictate the outcome or pace of the dialogue.
> | Rather, we want to look for ways to promote the dialogue that
> | Aung San Suu Kyi is seeking with the government, as the next
> | logical step in fostering national reconciliation and improving
> | the political situation on which so much depends: the
> | restoration of democratic civilian government and an end to
> | human rights abuses, narcotics trafficking, and military
> | attacks on unarmed members of ethnic groups.
> | In order to encourage a political dialogue to begin, the
> | Administration will maintain the existing U.S. measures in
> | place in Burma for the time being. In the absence of genuine
> | political reforms in Burma, we do not believe it is appropriate
> | to resume development assistance, restore GSP benefits or
> | resume Eximbank and OPIC programs. Of greatest impact, we will
> | also continue to oppose lending from the international
> | financial institutions and seek, with other friendly
> | governments, to maintain our informal arms embargo.
> | VISIT OF AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT TO BURMA
> | To underscore our support for Aung San Suu Kyi's call for a
> | genuine dialogue toward national reconciliation, U.S. Ambassador
> | to the United Nations Madeleine Albright will visit Burma
> | tomorrow after leading the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Fourth
> | World Conference on Women. She also will travel to Jakarta and
> | Manila.
> | Ambassador Albright's principal objectives will be to convey
> | U.S. views of the situation in Burma to the SLORC in the wake
> | of Aung San Suu Kyi's release and to reaffirm U.S. support for
> | human rights and democratization. She also will meet with Aung
> | San Suu Kyi, other senior Burmese government officials, and
> | representatives of UN agencies operating in Burma, such as
> | UNICEF, UNDP and UNDCP.
> | In her meetings with the SLORC, Ambassador Albright's message
> | will be clear and direct: the United States warmly welcomes
> | the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but it is essential the SLORC
> | begin a dialogue with her, other democracy leaders and the
> | ethnic minorities.
> | In her meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, who has welcomed the
> | visit, Ambassador Albright will ask for the Nobel laureate's
> | evaluation of the situation in Burma and the outlook for
> | progress toward democracy and respect for human rights.
> | Make no mistake: Ambassador Albright's visit does not represent
> | a warming of our relations with the SLORC. She will carry a
> | tough message, and we have so informed key Asian and European
> | capitals. We have strongly urged other countries to continue
> | to limit assistance to Burma and to join us in maintaining a
> | ban on IFI lending to Burma until the GOB makes significant
> | progress on democracy and human rights.
> | We believe that Ambassador Albright's visit provides an
> | excellent opportunity for the SLORC to signal whether it
> | intends to move forward toward reconciliation and democracy.
> | We hope the SLORC will realize that Burma's prospects for
> | prosperity and stability depend on the extent to which it
> | respects the wishes of its people by restoring democratic
> | government and the rule of law.
> | In her meetings with representatives of UN agencies operating
> | in Burma, Ambassador Albright will look for ways the U.S. can
> | support the work of the important UN programs there. In
> | support of these goals, the Administration proposes to continue
> | U.S. support and funding for UNDP and UNDCP activities in
> | Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi, who worked for the UN in New York at
> | one time, has endorsed the development and counternarcotics
> | objectives of these organizations. In her first press
> | conference, she said she strongly supports the UN being allowed
> | to play an important role in all countries, including her own.
> | We note that UNDP's programs have been thoroughly revamped and
> | redirected at meeting the urgent needs of the poorest Burmese.
> | UNDCP, meanwhile, is working to address the scourge of the drug
> | trade, an affliction for Burmese citizens as well as American.
> | We share Aung San Suu Kyi's view that these and other UN
> | activities in Burma have a beneficial effect in the country.
> | PENDING LEGISLATION ON BURMA
> | The Administration believes that the visit of Ambassador
> | Albright is an important opportunity for us to stress our
> | concerns to the SLORC and Aung San Suu Kyi. As it becomes
> | clearer how the SLORC will respond to the olive branch offered
> | by Aung San Suu Kyi and the visit of Ambassador Albright, the
> | Administration's reaction will be considered and appropriate.
> | I have already indicated the Administration will keep in place
> | the existing measures with respect to Burma for the time being.
> | The Administration, however, also needs the flexibility to
> | respond to what is clearly a changing situation in Burma.
> | In the wake of Aung San Suu Kyi's release, we do not want to
> | restrict our options. Increased sanctions should remain one of
> | those options. But if we are to be successful in our efforts
> | to encourage dialogue in Burma, we must do more than penalize
> | the SLORC at every turn. We must also make clear to the SLORC
> | that punitive measures can be avoided if they continue to take
> | positive steps, such as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. What
> | the Administration will do in the coming months on Burma
> | depends on the SLORC. The Administration needs the flexibility
> | to respond appropriately.
> | While the sanctions legislation under consideration in Congress
> | represents a serious effort to address continuing violations of
> | human rights in Burma, we believe it would be counterproductive
> | to impose sanctions now, in the wake of the Nobel laureate's
> | release. While international pressure helped produce Aung San
> | Suu Kyi's freedom, we must now allow time for a dialogue of
> | national reconciliation to begin before seeking to raise the
> | pressure, which could have consequences opposite to those we
> | seek.
> | We have discussed multilateral sanctions with interested
> | countries, and there is no support for them against Burma,
> | particularly in the wake of Aung San Suu Kyi's release.
> | Furthermore, we are concerned that some sanctions provisions,
> | which call for actions against third countries, might violate
> | our obligations under the WTO. We would not want to be
> | required to take punitive action against countries on whom we
> | need to rely to make common cause in other ways on Burma.
> | Second, we believe Congress should support continued U.S.
> | funding for UNDP and UNDCP programs in Burma. As I have
> | already indicated, the Administration believes these programs
> | help needy Burmese and address the opium menace without
> | strengthening the SLORC.
> | Finally, and while I recognize that this hearing is not focused
> | on narcotics matters, I need to mention that the Administration
> | believes Congress should not limit funding of U.S. counternarcotics
> | programs with Burma. These programs are already very limited --
> | as is appropriate. We believe that the minimal efforts now
> | underway do not undermine our human rights goals.
> | CONCLUSION
> | Mr. Chairman, Congress and the Administration share the same
> | objectives in Burma. We want to see a dialogue of national
> | reconciliation that will help lead to a new democratic future
> | for Burma. We want an end to human rights abuses and the
> | installation of a democratically-elected government in Rangoon.
> | We want an end to trafficking in heroin. Our hope is that we
> | will look back on the release of Aung San Suu Kyi as a turning
> | point in Burma's history. Thoughtful, reasoned measures by the
> | U.S. Government can help make these hopes a reality.
> | I look forward to continuing to work with the Committee and
> | other Members of Congress on these and other issues.
> | Thank you.
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