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Burma Elections Must Be Credible

Burma Elections Must Be Credible
Burma Elections Must Be Credible

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The military regime in Burma has not taken any meaningful steps that would lend credibility to general elections proposed for later in 2010. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that "much of the opposition remains in prison, there is no space for political dissent or debate and no freedom of the press."

Mr. Kelly called for Burma to engage pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic leaders "in a comprehensive dialogue on democratic reform. This," he said, "would be a first step towards inclusive elections."

The U.S., said spokesman Kelly, "will continue to take a measured approach to the 2010 elections until we can assess the electoral conditions and know whether opposition and ethnic groups will participate."

These elections would be Burma's first since 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won the last election by a landslide, but was never allowed to take office. Instead, Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the past twenty years under house arrest, along with National League for Democracy Vice-Chairman U Tin Oo.

In a break with past policies, the Barack Obama administration has attempted to engage with Burma's military rulers, along with maintaining continued pressure on the regime through economic sanctions. In meetings with representatives of Burma's military leaders in 2009, U.S. officials, said Mr. Kelly, reaffirmed "unwavering support for an independent, peaceful, and prosperous and democratic Burma." The U.S. remains ready to improve bilateral relations based on reciprocal and meaningful efforts by the Burmese government to fulfill the Burmese peoples' democratic aspirations.

The United States looks forward to a day when Burmese citizens can freely exercise their universal human rights. "We hope," said Mr. Kelly, "that day will come soon."