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US Official Criticizes Burma’s Military-Run National Convention - 2004-06-02

A U.S. official says the United States will not recognize any government or constitution emerging from a military-run national convention underway in Burma if democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. The situation in Burma was a key topic in a hearing of a congressional subcommittee on Capitol Hill.

In testimony to the House Asia-Pacific subcommittee, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, said the Bush administration is "very troubled" more progress has not been made toward ending the political stalemate in Burma.

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher asked him what the U.S. position is regarding the national convention under way in Rangoon.

ROHRABACHER: ?Will the United States recognize any constitution, or any government, coming out of that convention if Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest??

KELLY: ?No sir.?

Mr. Kelly's response, Congressman Rohrabacher said, should be a message to Burma's military government (SPDC), that nothing will be accomplished until the democratic opposition is included.

Mr. Kelly noted with dismay that, what he calls, stepped up efforts by countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Burma is a member, have not had much of an impact.

?Neighbors that have been trying to help, the Thais and Malaysians, are also expressing, [with the] Japanese, some new levels of disappointment,? he said. ?Is it making any impact? Not much. This is a military government that seems remarkably impervious to criticism from outside, and in fact, to sanctions from outside.?

Responding to a question from Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Mr. Kelly said Burma's neighbors remain economically engaged with the Rangoon military and did not support the kind of sanctions the U.S. Congress imposed on Rangoon last year.

Mr. Kelly says Asian economic engagement with Rangoon has, so far, not brought about any change in the Rangoon government's positions.

?These efforts frankly have not shown any serious signs of success yet,? he noted. ?Burma lives in its poverty and isolation. Tan Shwe, the head of the military government, does his thing. The military prospers even as the people do very badly in a country that by every logic should be one of the leaders of the region. So it's a pretty sad situation.?

A State Department report to Congress in April of this year said the U.S. ban on imports from Burma resulted in the closure of more than 100 garment factories, with a loss of as many as 70,000 jobs. The report adds that new orders from importers in European Union (EU) countries helped remaining factories continue production.

Mr. Kelly says the Bush administration's support of the congressional extension of the import ban is, in his words, "a clear and forceful extension of our disapproval of developments" in Burma.