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US urges ASEAN to maintain pressure
Subject: US urges ASEAN to maintain pressure on Burma.
US URGES ASEAN TO MAINTAIN PRESSURE ON BURMA.
RANGOON: The most senior United States official to visit Burma in nearly
a decade has bluntly told Rangoon's military rulers they had to open
talks with political opponent Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and move toward
democracy before there could be closer ties with Washington.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Madeleine Albright, later
told a news conference in Bangkok on Saturday that the US hoped other
countries would follow a similar hard line.
"The only way to encourage the SLORC to better behaviour is by pressing
the case that they need to behave better and not rewardinf them for what
is basically a very small step," she said.
The "small step" was the decision by the SLORC, as the junta is known, to
release Ms Suu Kyi from nearly six years of house arrest on July 10.
In a statement read to the press in Rangoon, Ms Albright said she had
told Burma's military intelligence Chief, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt,
"that his country's isolationwould only deepen unless concrete steps
toward political freedom were taken".
"I urged the SLORC to choose the path of true democracy rathen than
continued repression and dictatorial control," she said.
Ms Albright had asked SLORC officials "to begin a meaningful dialogue
with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic leaders for the purpose of
reconciliation and broadening the space for political discussion within
She was "modestly encouraged" to hear SLORC was considering a political
dialogue with Ms Suu Kyi, "but my Government does not believe that such
as a dialogue should be delayed any longer".
Ms Suu Kyi assured her in a two-hour breakfast meeting on Saturday that
she was ready to begin that dialogue quickly, Ms Albright said.
Ms Albright, who delivered messages to Ms Suu Kyi from President Clinton
and his wife, Hillary, also urged the SLORC to free more political
prisoners, halt attacks on ethnic minorities, end forced labour and
forced porterage and let the Red Cross visit Burmese prisons.
Ms Albright, 59, the highest-ranking US official to visit Burma since the
military crackdown in 1988, cautioned the Association of South-East Asian
Nations States not to "misinterpret my trip as some warming trend" in
ASEAN promoted a policy of "Constructive Engagement" with the Burmese
regime in contrast to the US position that Rangoon should be isolated
both politically and economically.
"We think that it is important for to be a democratic change and that
supporting the SLORC through investment is not the best approach is to
keep putting pressure on them to change, and that was the purpose of what
I was doing there," she said.
"The US wants to make very clear that we are not prepared ourselves to
undertake more elaborate relations and we would hope that other countries
would not either," she said in Bangkok.
General Khin Nyunt was "a little surprised" at her tough talk, she said,
including when she "shot back" at his suggestion that the many smiling
Burmese people indicated broad public support for the SLORC.
"I said that has been my experience, in a lifetime of studying repressive
societies, that dictators often declude themselves into believing they
have popular support, but that people often smile not because of happy
but because they are afraid."
General Khin Nyunt responded with "a nervous smile", she told the press.
(The Australian, September 11, 1995, page 6).