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US Deplores Lack of Progress on Democracy in Burma - 2003-05-06


The United States Tuesday lamented the lack of progress toward political liberalization in Burma, a year after the country's military authorities released democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. The State Department said the Burmese rulers have been unwilling to engage the democratic opposition in a substantive dialogue.

The release of Aung San Suu Kyi from nearly 20 months of house arrest last May 6 was coupled with promises from the military regime of a democratic opening in the isolated Southeast Asian country.

But although the Nobel Prize-winning activist has been allowed to travel around the country and open regional offices of her National League for Democracy party, a broader opening of Burmese society has not occurred, to the disappointment of human rights groups and U.S. diplomats, among others.

In a statement marking the anniversary, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said a year after Aung San Suu Kyi's release, it is "past time" for the people of Burma to enjoy basic rights and economic development.

"Unfortunately the regime has made little progress towards national reconciliation since then," he said. "The rulers of Burma have continued to oppress people, harassed Aung San Suu Kyi on her travels and limited her party's activities. We call on the regime to take its own declaration seriously and move toward the resumption of multi-party democracy."

Mr. Boucher said May 27 will mark the anniversary of another disappointment for Burma, thirteen years since the 1990 election in which Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's party won more than 80 per cent of the parliamentary seats but was not allowed to form a government.

The spokesman reiterated the U.S. government's welcome of the release a few days ago of retired professor Salai Tun Than, 74, and about 20 other Burmese political prisoners. But he said more than a thousand others remain behind bars, under terrible conditions, and many in bad health.

He further said the Burmese leadership continues to monitor released political detainees, restrict their freedoms, and discriminate against the families.

He also said the Burmese junta has failed to work in good faith with U.N. Special Envoy Razali Ismail, a former Malaysian U.N. ambassador named in April 2000 to mediate between the junta and the democracy movement.

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