News / Asia

Obama: Burma's Government Steals Election

President Barack Obama delivers a speech at Parliament House in New Delhi, India, 08 Nov. 2010.
President Barack Obama delivers a speech at Parliament House in New Delhi, India, 08 Nov. 2010.

President Barack Obama has reiterated his criticism of the election in military-ruled Burma, saying it was neither free nor fair.

U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks directly to Indian lawmakers are significant since India has softened its criticism during the past decade of Burma's military government.  He mentioned Burma during a portion of his speech about strengthening the foundations of democratic governance, and supporting human rights and struggles for freedom.

Referring to India's independence struggle and its leader, Mohandas Gandhi, the president said India championed self-determination for people from Africa to Asia, and supported democratic development and civil society groups.

He then turned to Burma.

"When peaceful democratic movements are suppressed, as in Burma, then the democracies of the world cannot remain silent.  For it is unacceptable to gun down peaceful protesters and incarcerate political prisoners decade after decade," said the president. "It is unacceptable to hold the aspirations of an entire people hostage to the greed and paranoia of a bankrupt regime.  It is unacceptable to steal an election, as the regime in Burma has done again for all the world to see."

President Obama also framed the Burma situation in the context of the message he intended his three-day visit to send - that India is an already "risen" regional and global power.  

"It is the responsibility of the international community, especially leaders like the United States and India, to condemn it.  If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often avoided these issues.  But speaking up for those who cannot do so for themselves is not interfering in the affairs of other countries," president Obama said. "It is not violating the rights of sovereign nations.  It is staying true to our democratic principles.  It is giving meaning to the human rights that we say are universal.  And it sustains the progress that in Asia and around the world has helped turn dictatorships into democracies and ultimately increased our security in the world."

In a formal written statement issued on the day of Burma's election, Mr. Obama said the United States will monitor the situation closely in weeks and months ahead.

He said the United States will continue to implement a strategy of both pressure and engagement based on "conditions on the ground in Burma and actions of the Burmese authorities."

The president also called again for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, and immediate and unconditional freedom for other political prisoners, saying only genuine, inclusive dialogue can place Burma on the path to a truly representative democracy.

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