Senior U.S. officials have told Congress the United States is intensifying efforts to bring more international pressure to bear on Burma's military government to end its crackdown on the country's democratic opposition. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia affairs, Matthew Daley, and the top U.S. official for human rights and democracy, Lorne Craner, testified on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Daley says the State Department is "suspending judgment" for now on the significance of the military government's decision to allow democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi back to her home after four months of house arrest. He says too many other questions remain unanswered.
"Will the SPDC (military government) allow a meaningful role to the National League for Democracy in shaping the political evolution of Burma? What approach will be taken to the emerging humanitarian crisis? Will the NLD be allowed to resume its activities and its offices re-opened?" said Mr. Daley. "We are not able to answer these questions today, Mr. Chairman."
Mr. Daley pointed out that U.S. sanctions, strengthened in July to include a ban on all U.S. imports from Burma and an assets freeze have hit Burma's garment industry hard. He says this has had unfortunate effects, including the loss of thousands of jobs in Burma's garment industry. But he said the country's greatest misfortune is the "mis-rule of the military government" and the people's suffering.
He stressed that the United States continues to work with the European Union, Japan and others to exert more pressure on Rangoon. "Our permanent representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Negroponte, raised the situation in Burma at the Security Council in July," he said. "We are now exploring how best to deal with this challenge in multi-national fora - including the Security Council."
Earlier, the special U.N. envoy for Burma, Razali Ismail, left Rangoon after meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi at her home.
Mr. Daley said U.S. officials look forward to hearing from Mr. Razali whether he still believes the international community should be patient while the military government pursues its plan for democratic transition.
Mr. Daley said the United States tried about six-weeks ago to persuade other U.N. Security Council members to hold an open session on Burma, but ran into opposition from countries he declined to name. He says U.S. efforts now focus on obtaining a strong resolution on Burma in the General Assembly.
Another official, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Lorne Craner, indicated in a written statement the Bush administration is "unwavering" in its commitment to supporting the people of Burma in their battle for democracy.
Mr. Craner said the United States has succeeded in "galvanizing" others to put more pressure on the Burmese military regime. But he said Washington wants more "concrete action" from others, especially Burma's neighbors in the region.
President Bush is expected to raise the Burma issue when he meets East Asian leaders at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Bangkok later this month.