Burma's rulers have shed their military uniforms and donned civilian clothes, but it is clear that the same regime that has controlled the Southeast Asian nation is still calling the shots there.
The military junta, known as the SPDC, was officially dissolved and Senior General Than Shwe announced he would step down from his official role as Commander in Chief and leader of the armed forces. On March 30, a nominally civilian government of lawmakers elected last fall was sworn in. While this supposedly marks the country's shift to democratic rule, it's clear that Burma's fundamentally flawed electoral process -- which marginalized opposition candidates and ensured seats for military officials -- has ensured that key military regime figures will continue to dominate the government and all decision making.
Toward that end, the United States will continue in its approach to Burma. We urge authorities there to release all political prisoners, to recognize the legitimacy of the National League for Democracy and all democratic and ethnic opposition political parties, and to enter into a genuine and inclusive dialogue with these groups as a first step towards national reconciliation.
The United States and other members of the international community have enacted economic sanctions on Burma's leaders and their close supporters to press for democratic and human rights reforms. But we have also reached out to Burma's leaders for increased cooperation and engagement. The United States will continue this dual-track policy.
America's expectations are clear. Substantive reforms are still needed in Burma's government, not merely a costume change.