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U.S. policy blends ‘pressure and engagement’: Campbell


U-S-state-department-logoIn both words and actions, Burmese officials have demonstrated increasing signs of interest in political, economic, and social development, and national reconciliation, US. Assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday.

Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, reviewed U.S. policy and recent events in Burma in testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

In looking at the past year, he said, “Although we assess this nascent opening as real and significant, we also believe it is fragile and reversible… and therefore, we need to carefully calibrate our approach to encourage continued progress.”

Significantly, he said the impact of Burma’s reform efforts has not extended far beyond the capital and major cities.

“This is particularly true in ethnic minority areas: Fighting continues in Kachin State, coupled with reports of severe human rights violations. In Rakhine State systematic discrimination and denial of human rights against ethnic Rohingya remains deplorable,” he said.

A significant portion of Campbell’s remarks concerned the ethnic situation in Burma.

“Overall, the legacy of five decades of military rule – repressive laws, a pervasive security apparatus, a corrupt judiciary, and media censorship – is still all too present,” he said.

The initial reforms are only the beginning of a sustained process and commitment required to bring Burma back into the international community and toward a more representative and responsive democratic governance, he said.

“We have serious and continuing concerns with respect to human rights, democracy, and nonproliferation, and our policy continues to blend both pressure and engagement to encourage progress in all areas,” Campbell told lawmakers. “While we recognized the momentous release of prisoners last January, we continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and the removal of conditions on those released.”

He said the State Department’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor estimates at least several hundred prisoners of conscience are still behind bars.

“Through an upcoming human rights dialogue, we will engage officials on developing a credible, transparent, and inclusive process to identify remaining political prisoners of conscience, seek access to prisons for international organizations, and press for the immediate release of all political prisoners unconditionally,” he said.

He said, “In every interaction with the Burmese government, at every level, we are also urging the immediate halt to hostilities in Burma’s ethnic minority areas, particularly in Kachin State, where fighting has continued at varying levels of intensity since the ceasefire lapsed in June 2011. We have consistently urged unfettered access for United Nations and humanitarian agencies to Burma’s conflict zones. This access is crucial so that the international community can assess needs and attempt to assist tens of thousands who have been displaced as a result of the fighting.”

While the Burmese government has recently allowed limited access to U.N. agencies to deliver assistance to certain areas of Kachin State, he said, “We are pressing for regular and sustained access to all areas, including those controlled by the Kachin Independence Army, to provide humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs).”

The U.S. remains concerned with “serious human rights violations against the ethnic minority Rohingya people who are denied citizenship and human rights, such as freedom of movement and freedom to marry, among other rights all people should be able to exercise.”

“We will urge the Burmese government, including through a human rights dialogue, to pursue mechanisms for accountability for the human rights violations that have occurred as a result of fighting and discrimination in ethnic areas,” Campbell said.

In conclusion, he said, “As we look forward, there is a great store of goodwill within the international community to re-engage Burma, re-build its capacity, and re-connect with the Burmese people, should the reform process continue. Though the challenges that lie ahead are daunting, the efforts of the resilient and diverse people of Burma are as inspiring as ever.”
Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 April 2012 18:07 )  

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