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US Considers New Burma Outreach Amid Election Concerns

A senior State Department official said Friday a high-level U.S. envoy may visit Burma in the coming days to discuss that country's "deeply flawed" election plans. But there are conditions for such a visit.

Officials here say Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell may visit Burma on his current Asia trip, provided he is allowed to meet Burmese opposition figures along with officials of the military government.

Campbell became the highest-level U.S. official to visit Burma in several years last November, when he met with government officials and detained Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. That trip was part of the Obama administration's effort to engage the isolated Southeast Asian State.

The United States in recent days has stepped up its criticism of rules for promised elections in Burma that effectively exclude Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party, the NLD.

But a senior official to spoke to reporters said Campbell, currently in Manila, is prepared to visit Burma early next week -- on condition that he be allowed to visit Aung San Suu Kyi, other NLD officials and ethnic group representatives along with military authorities.

The comments here came a day after the NLD announced it would disband rather than submit to government terms for the upcoming elections that would require it to accept the nullification of results of the country's last elections, in 1990, won by the NLD.

State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley called the election rules "deeply flawed" and "patently unfair" toward the opposition. "For more than 20 years the NLD and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, have served as beacons of hope in Burma and as an inspiration to all those who strive for democracy and justice around the world. And we applaud the resolve of the NLD to continue to working for the people of Burma. We will continue to work with all those, including the NLD, who are dedicated to building a better future for their country," he said.

Crowley said it is highly regrettable that Burmese authorities created circumstances that prompted the NLD to take such a step.

The NLD won the 1990 election by a wide margin but was barred by the military from taking power. Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate, has been under detention most of the time since then.

Earlier this week, the State Department expressed skepticism about an announcement that Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein and other Cabinet ministers were resigning their military posts, apparently to run for election as nominal civilians.

Current election laws reserve one-quarter of the seats in a new parliament for the military. The decision by the more than 20 Cabinet members to quit their military posts is widely seen as an effort to insure that the military controls an even larger portion of legislative seats.