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January 4, 2010, marks the sixty-second anniversary of Burma’s independence from British rule. The United States has expressed its warmest wishes to the people of Burma on this occasion and its hope that they will enjoy a better future.
As Department of State Spokesman Ian Kelly stated on December 30, “We support the peaceful efforts of people everywhere to exercise freely their universal human rights, and we look forward to the day when Burma’s citizens will be able to do so. We hope that day will come soon."
Unfortunately, for most of the years since independence, the aspirations of Burma's citizens for freedom and democracy have been frustrated by military rule. The country possesses a rich history, a wealth of natural resources, and a talented, resilient populace. Burma could one day be a leader among Southeast Asian nations.
However, the path the Burmese government has chosen has caused suffering and impoverished the nation. It has also estranged Burma from the community of nations.
That does not need to be the future course. Burma’s generals can choose to mark this year’s Independence Day by embracing a more democratic and prosperous future for their country and their people.
Sixty-two years ago the Burmese people secured their independence. Today, the people of Burma should again be able to determine their own future. On the anniversary of Burma's independence, the United States reiterates its call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners and the initiation of meaningful dialogue among the government, democratic groups, and ethnic minorities. The United States is prepared to support and facilitate that process.
As President Obama stated recently, a better relationship with the United States -- and indeed with much of the world -- is possible if Burma moves in the direction of democratic reform. For its part, the United States stands ready to improve relations based on reciprocal and concrete efforts by the Burmese government.