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Daily Press Briefing by U.S. Depart
- Subject: Daily Press Briefing by U.S. Depart
- From: freeburma@xxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 10:47:00
Subject: Daily Press Briefing by U.S. Department of State on May 22, 1996
U.S. Department of State
96/05/22 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
I N D E X
Wednesday, May 22, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
MR. BURNS: Yes. Would you like to hear about Burma?
The situation is very grim in Rangoon. Our Embassy in
Rangoon, headed by our Charge d'Affaires, Marilyn Meyers,
reports to us that 91 members of the National League for
Democracy have been detained; and of those 91, 87 were
elected in 1990, in the elections that were repudiated by
the military dictators in Burma.
We deplore the arrests of these 91 people. We deplore
the fact that they will not be able to meet this weekend at
the residence of Aung San Suu Kyi for a democratic meeting.
Yesterday in Rangoon, Marilyn Meyers, our Charge d'Affaires,
met with Burmese Government officials, and she called for
the immediate release of the 91 people who have been
On May 21, here in Washington, our Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State, Kent Wiedemann, also telephoned the
Burmese Ambassador and made the identical protest.
The Burmese Government has told us that the detainees
have not been imprisoned but instead are being held at
so-called "government guest houses" -- their term, not mine
-- for questioning.
As we said yesterday, this is yet another in a long
series of outrageous and oppressive measures against
democrats, including a Nobel prize laureate in Rangoon.
Nothing can justify the detention of 91 people who simply
wanted to meet to talk about the activities of their group
and to petition the Burmese Government for rights that the
international community gives to every citizen.
We will continue to urge the Burmese Government to
enter into a genuine dialogue with these people. We'll
continue to urge the rest of Burma's neighbors in Asia and
countries around the world to repudiate the actions that
have been taken over the last couple of days.
Q Could you spell her name? M-e-y or M-y?
MR. BURNS: Marilyn Meyers? M-e-y-e-r-s. She's the
American Charge d'Affaires in Rangoon. We do not have an
Ambassador. We do not have Ambassadorial level relations in
Rangoon because of the very poor state of our relationship
with Burma and with the military dictators who rule Burma.
Q Have you any plans to do anything beyond urging
them? I mean, are there any other moves that are being
MR. BURNS: At this point we are talking to them
diplomatically. We are hoping that other countries will
denounce these undemocratic actions, as the United States
has denounced them now for a couple of days running.
Obviously, we will consider any options at our disposal as
the situation proceeds.
But, frankly, Chris, the United States is in a position
really of using, if you will, some moral suasion here. It
has not worked in the past. These military dictators seem
to be impervious to the will of the international community
and to the will of a heroic woman who is leading the
democratic movement in Burma.
We have great respect for her, and I think she deserves
to have countries like the United States standing up for
her, and that's what we're doing.
Q What does the State Department think of the
potential legislation in Congress? I think it's called the
Burma Trade Sanctions Act, which might try and stiffen U.S.
MR. BURNS: U.S. policy is already fairly stiff. The
state of our relations is poor. Our ability to interact
with Burma is quite limited because of the actions of the
Burmese Government in the past. If there are ways where
that can be strengthened, I'm sure we'll be working with the
Congress on that -- but I don't want to say anything
categorical about that, Bill, until I've at least looked at
it more closely.
Q Kent Wiedemann was on the Hill today, testifying
in opposition to the bill, and I wondered how much -- to
what extent does the U.S. -- perceived U.S. interests in
working with the Burmese Government on counter-narcotics
efforts factor into your unwillingness to impose tough
sanctions on Burma?
MR. BURNS: Kent Wiedemann is on the Hill this morning.
He's testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, and
it's on U.S. policy towards Burma. Since he hadn't finished
that by the time I came out, I just don't want to make any
categorical statements, pending a discussion on what he said
and what positions he took.
Carol, your specific question is that somehow we are
limited in action because --
Q Because you've got competing interests, which is
to say some people in the government believe that there's a
value in trying to work with the military rulers there in
order to halt narcotics trafficking. I just wondered how
much of this was a factor? As repression increased in
Burma, how much is this counter-narcotics cooperation -- if
you can call it that -- a factor in your decisions on
whether or not tougher action, including sanctions, might be
MR. BURNS: If we wanted to tighten the sanctions and
tighten the vice -- at least the U.S. part of a vice on
Burma -- of course, there would be a variety of factors that
you'd have to consider before you made that decision, and
I'm sure that narcotics would be one. But I wouldn't say
it's an overwhelming factor.
You know that we have worked with the Burmese
Government, because there's a major source of drugs that
flow to the United States, and it has until recently
harbored a major drug lord -- Khun Sa. But I think that
we've also had our difficulties with the Burmese Government,
great difficulties, in working with them on
counter-narcotics cooperation. So I wouldn't say that
somehow there's a marriage of convenience here that prevents
us from taking stronger action.
Frankly, I don't see other countries around the world
acting and saying things that are stronger than what we've
been saying over the last couple of days -- and
fundamentally what we hope to see in Burma is the emergence
of democracy and a democratic movement like the one that
exists. We do not like to see, and certainly oppose very
strongly, the detention of anyone who is a democrat, and
there are democrats in Burma.
Q Have you talked to the Chinese or the Thai in the
last 36 hours or so to see if they can help you out in
isolating their ally?
MR. BURNS: I can't give you a detailed report on which
countries we've spoken to and which we haven't, but I know
that we have -- regularly and this week -- have talked to
other governments. If I answer one or two, I just don't
know who else we've talked to.
Q What sort of role do you think the Chinese --
what sort of role would you like the Chinese to play in this
strategy of further isolation?
MR. BURNS: We certainly would like Burma's neighbors
to act consistent with our belief that there should be an
international protest against the infringement of democratic
rights, and countries have to decide for themselves what it
is that they can do to make that apparent in Burma.
Q I know China is a great supporter of human
rights. Do you think that's feasible to expect from them?
MR. BURNS: I think it's certainly feasible from many
of the Southeast Asian countries. I don't know if China
would take that action or not.