The Burmese military junta has again failed to cooperate with the United Nations in an effort to promote democratic political progress in Burma. Special Advisor Ibrahim Gambari recently completed a six-day visit to Burma where he was unable to meet with junta leader General Than Shwe or National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It was Mr. Gambari's fourth trip since widespread pro-democracy protests were violently crushed by the military last September.
In a written statement, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said, "The United States is deeply disappointed" that the Burmese regime has refused to work with the U.N. to bring about democratic progress. The military junta has rejected calls by the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. leadership, and the Association of South East Asian Nations for the release of political prisoners. The Burmese government has also refused to engage in a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and ethnic minority leaders.
It is difficult to imagine any real political progress in Burma until the country's leading democracy advocate is released. Indeed, Aung San Suu Kyi has spent more than thirteen years of the last nineteen years under house arrest. And she is not alone. It is estimated that there may be as many as two-thousand political prisoners in Burma.
And there seems to be no end to the arrests. Just prior to Mr. Gambari's visit, the military regime in Burma jailed five activists for taking part in a peaceful demonstration marking the 20th anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising in 1988.
The United States calls on the Burmese regime to live up to the agreements it made with U.N. representatives during prior trips. Improved relations between Burma and the international community depend on the Burmese regime taking concrete steps toward democracy.