Keeping its pledge to meet action with action, the United States is moving to restore full diplomatic relations with Burma, following important steps taken recently by the civilian government there on the path toward democracy.
“In Indonesia, I spoke about the flickers of progress that were emerging in Burma,” President Barack Obama said after receiving news that some 650 prisoners would be released from Burma’s jails, including over 200 political activists. “Today, that light burns a bit brighter, as prisoners are reunited with their families and people can see a democratic path forward. Much more remains to be done to meet the aspirations for the Burmese people, but the United States is committed to continuing our engagement with the government in Nay Pyi Taw.”
The president asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take additional steps to build confidence in our sincerity with the government and people of Burma. Exchanging ambassadors will help strengthen our efforts to support the reforms seen there since the military government ceded control to civilian rule. The U.S. had an ambassador in Burma from the time it gained independence from Britain until 1990, when a military junta suspended the constitution.
Since the restoration of civilian rule, Secretary Clinton and a number of top U.S. officials have traveled there for talks with Burmese leaders, who have undertaken a number of political reforms. These include easing restrictions on media and civil society, legalizing the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, setting a date for by-elections this spring, passing new laws to protect the rights of assembly and workers, providing access for humanitarian groups to conflict areas, and establishing a national human rights commission.
In addition, the government has made overtures to begin talks and address long-running tensions in ethnic minority areas. Burmese leaders recently signed a cease-fire agreement with the Karen National Union, the first ceasefire with the Karen in 63 years of conflict.
The United States would like to see an immediate end to violence in all of Burma’s ethnic minorities, as well as release of all remaining political prisoners. We will continue to support the people of Burma and their efforts, and to encourage the government to continue taking bold steps that build the kind of free and prosperous nation that their people desire to see.