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US Offers Strong Support for Burmese Democracy Activists

  • Serena Parker

Paula Dobriansky, U.S. undersecretary of state for global affairs, says the United States stands in solidarity with those in Burma who are denied basic rights.

"We will continue to help the people of Burma in their struggle," she said. "We need to press the world to stand firm against the junta, and remind people everywhere precisely what is going on in Rangoon."

She accused the military government in Burma of harassing political opponents through widespread intimidation, violence and unwarranted arrests.

"With conduct like this, it is very clear why our Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, recently noted that Burma is one of the world's 'outposts of tyranny,'" said Ms. Dobriansky.

Burma's current military regime seized power in 1988. The opposition National League for Democracy won parliamentary elections in 1990, but the military government refused to honor the results.

Earlier this month, Burma's military government convened a national convention to draft a new constitution. The National League for Democracy and another major opposition party boycotted the conference, citing the continued detention of party leaders and others. Exiled Burmese pro-democracy activists say the constitutional exercise will not bring change, and urge democratic nations to denounce the process.

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the U.S. Campaign for Burma, Ms. Dobriansky said the time has come for the Burmese people to be represented by a government of their selection.

"The elections in Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine, I think, remind us all that all people everywhere who aspire to freedom and desire a government of their choosing can succeed," she said. "This is true of the Burmese, too. It is something for which they yearn for and their captors fear."

Sein Win, leader of the exiled National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, said the sanctions the United States imposed against Burma in 2003 are having an effect. He urged the European Union to enact its own.

"That is why we are asking the European Union to follow, or not to follow, they don't like the word 'follow' so I should say to do more, like the United States, because we know that it is effective," said Sein Win.

Mr. Win also called upon the U.S. Congress to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which imposed a number of sanctions on Burma. It was passed in 2003 after an attack on Burma's democratic opposition party and the arrest of opposition leaders, including Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. It requires Congress to review conditions in Burma annually to determine whether continuation of sanctions is appropriate.

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