Following a seven-month policy review, the Obama administration last year launched a "policy of pragmatic engagement with Burma’s leadership."
"We have engaged in senior-level dialogue with the regime. Yet we have not lifted sanctions, nor have we abandoned our commitment to the people of Burma," said Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell. "Our strategic goal for Burma remains unchanged: we wish to see a more prosperous, democratic Burma that lives in peace with its people and with its neighbors."
Assistant Secretary Campbell recently visited Burma. The key objective of that trip, said Kurt Campbell, "was to underscore the purposes and principles of our engagement, and to lay out the reasons for our profound disappointment in what we have witnessed to date."
Heeding the call of the international community, Burma's military junta announced that a national election will take place sometime this year, but then proceeded to stack the odds against its political opponents by passing a new constitution with highly discriminatory candidate eligibility rules, as well as guaranteeing one fourth of parliamentary seats to the military.
During his trip, Assistant Secretary Campbell spoke with Burma's senior leadership, outlining a U.S. proposal "for a credible dialogue" that would allow all stakeholders in Burma to negotiate with dignity.
Nonetheless, the country's senior military leaders have "chosen to move ahead unilaterally – without consultation from key stakeholders – towards elections planned for this year," said Assistant Secretary Campbell.
"As a direct result, what we have seen to date leads us to believe that these elections will lack international legitimacy.
"We urge the regime to take immediate steps to open the process in the time remaining before the elections."
"Although we are profoundly disappointed by the response of the Burmese leadership, I remain inspired by those outside the government with whom I met. . . . . I respect the difficult decision Burma’s political parties have taken regarding the upcoming elections. Some have decided to participate, some will not. It is the right of a free people to make those decisions for themselves, and the United States respects their decisions," said Assistant Secretary Campbell.
"The strength and resilience of those who struggle continue to inspire us. The United States stands by the Burmese people in their desire for a more democratic, prosperous, and peaceful nation."