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February 26, 2009

US envoy to Asean seeks bloc’s cooperation on Myanmar reforms

The United States wants Southeast Asian states to press for reform, openness and political progress in Myanmar, while seeking views on a new approach towards the military-ruled country, Reuters quoted a senior US diplomat as saying Wednesday.

The comments come after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced during a visit to Asia last week that the United States was taking a fresh look at its policy on Myanmar to seek ways to sway the country's ruling junta.

"What we're asking of other Asean members really is, first and foremost, welcome their thoughts and ideas on how we can best work together," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel told reporters in Vietnam.

“And second, that they use whatever contacts and access that they have in the country to encourage new thinking and reform, increased openness and political progress," he said.

Marciel said the US goal "remains to encourage release of political prisoners, dialogue between the government and the people and the opposition, and overall progress".

He said Washington wants Myanmar to stop "going in a negative direction". Washington has gradually tightened sanctions on the generals who have ruled the former Burma for more than four decades to try to force them into political rapprochement with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy.

Myanmar's opposition won a 1990 election landslide only to be denied power. Suu Kyi has been in prison or under house arrest for more than half of the past two decades.

Clinton, however, said that neither the sanctions nor Asean's non-interference approach has worked, and there was a need for new thinking in Myanmar policy. Marciel also serves as US Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. He will attend the annual ASEAN summit in Hua Hin, Thailand this weekend.
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