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Civil society groups from Burma and Asia issue open letter on eve of U.S. fact-finding mission to Burma; Call for critical engagement with junta

November 2, 2009

Civil society groups from Burma and Asia have issued an open letter to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell on the eve of his “fact-finding” trip to Burma, urging the U.S. to remain firm in its efforts to support genuine democratization and national reconciliation in the country. The letter, signed by 50 civil society groups, called on Campbell to ensure that the regime meets key benchmarks before next year’s elections, including (1) the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners (2) an end to attacks against ethnic groups, and (3) inclusive dialogue including a review of the military regime’s 2008 Constitution.

“We welcome the U.S.’s efforts to promote democracy, peace and national reconciliation in Burma,” said Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership. “This new policy of political engagement is in line with the position of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy and other pro-democracy and ethnic groups, who have constantly stated that we are willing to work with the military junta towards building a future democratic federal union of Burma. On this trip, the U.S. must not allow itself to be distracted from the main goal, which should be to lay the groundwork towards meaningful and effective dialogue between all stakeholders inside and outside Burma.”

On Friday, the State Department announced that Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Scot Marciel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, would be traveling to Burma on November 3rd and 4th. Campbell is expected to meet with leaders of the military regime as well as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic groups, as part of the U.S.’s new policy of engaging with the military junta in Burma while maintaining sanctions.

“At the ASEAN Summit last week, our governments failed yet again to address Burma’s serious problems and the threats to regional stability generated by the junta’s actions. With this trip, the U.S. has the chance to show why Asian governments should set aside their failed policy of non-interference, and set an example for critical political engagement based on key principles,” said Debbie Stothard, Coordinator of ALTSEAN-Burma.

The letter also drew attention to the case of tortured and detained American citizen Kyaw Zaw Lwin (aka Nyi Nyi Aung), and urged Campbell to secure his release. The civil society groups requested that the delegation meet with activists from both inside Burma and on the border during and after the trip. The letter was addressed to Mr. Campbell and Mr. Marciel, as well as Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, and Larry M. Dinger, Charge d’Affaires, Burma.

Khin Ohmar +66 818840772
Debbie Stothard +66 816861652

This post is in: Press Release