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6 November 2009
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US-Myanmar Ties: Genuine dialogue necessary to move forward

An inclusive dialogue among all parties--including the government, the opposition and minorities--will be the first step to move forward for national conciliation in Myanmar, Thai News Agency reported, quoting a senior American official.

The United States stresses that a genuine dialogue among the key players within the country is the best way forward to national conciliation, said Scot Marciel, US Deputy Assistant Secretary, East Asian and Pacific Bureau, at a public forum in Bangkok after his two-day visit to Myanmar, the highest-level American visit in more than a decade.

Marciel and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell met Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein, senior government officials, Aung San Suu Kyi, and some representatives from minority groups during two-day trip to Naypyidaw and Yangon on November 3-4.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years.

"We are willing to move ahead in terms of bilateral relations,” Marciel said, “but we are only going to do that if there is real progress."

The visit was an exploratory mission and the main purpose was to explain the US policy review to the key parties there and hear their views, said Marciel. The move was to mark a new policy of engagement with Myanmar's ruling military junta.

US officials urged the government to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to have regular access and engagement with her National League for Democracy (NLD) colleagues and others and highlighted concerns about the wide range human rights issues, including political prisoners and treatment of minority groups, said Marciel.

If the Myanmar government moves ahead with this election without participation by the parties and groups that won a substantial majority in the last election, it’s not credible, he said at the forum.

"If there is to be a credible election that fundamentally changes the dynamic in the country,” Marciel explained, “there needs to be dialogue and there needs to be participation."

The American policy review came after its previous sanctions approach had not achieved the desired results.

The US will maintain existing sanctions pending progress while beginning a pragmatic engagement with the government and continuing humanitarian assistance for people of the country, said Marciel.

Campbell was the highest ranking US official to visit Myanmar since Madeleine Albright went there as US ambassador to the United Nations in 1995 during Bill Clinton's presidency.

The two-day trip followed discussions between US and Myanmar officials in New York in September.


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