Friday, June 3, 2011

US Sen. McCain urges ‘concrete steps’ from Burmese government

Friday, 03 June 2011 18:45 Thea Forbes

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A US senator and presidential candidate in 2008 called for ‘concrete actions’ and not just ‘warm words’ at the end of his official three-day visit to Burma on Friday.

US Sen. John McCain speaking at a press conference.
Photo: Mizzima
During his three-day visit, he met with Burma’s vice president, Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo and other key government figures, visited the National League for Democracy (NLD) HIV/AIDS ‘salvation centre’ in Rangoon and met with NLD members including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

McCain, who had been denied a visa to enter the country for the past 15 years, said that from his meetings this week it was clear that ‘the new government wants a better relationship with the United States’.

McCain said it had been a ‘true pleasure’ to return to Burma and was optimistic about US-Burma relations in the future.

Stressing that the US was ‘not condemned to have bad relations with any country’, McCain cited Vietnam as an example of improved diplomatic relations between the US and countries with which it has previously had a turbulent relationship.

‘I acknowledge that this new government represents some change from the past…But as I told the government leaders I met yesterday, any improvement in relations will need to be built not on warm words, but on concrete actions’, he told observers at the US Embassy.

Urging rapid change, he said, ‘This attempt at engagement should be time-bound and results-oriented'.

He said that the US’s engagement policy with Burma was dependent on critical steps that, if taken, will prove the Burmese government has a genuine commitment to democratic change and would determine the ‘willingness of the United States to make reciprocal changes’. He cited the unconditional release of all political prisoners as one pivotal necessity for realising Burma’s path to genuine democracy.

He said that constructive engagement requires change from the current status quo and that sanctions will remain in place until changes become evident. ‘Without concrete actions by this government that signal a deeper commitment to democratic change, there should be no easing or lifting of sanctions’, he said.

Existing sanctions should be improved so that they are more effective, he said: ‘In fact, we should seek to do a more effective job of implementing existing sanctions'.

McCain called for a peaceful dialogue to reunite the country in a democratic process of national reconciliation, and said that he concurred with the UN Human Rights Council’s statement that any reconciliation process must ‘involve Aung San Suu Kyi, ethnic minority and other opposition leaders, and the National League for Democracy, which has been recognized before, and should be recognized again, as a legitimate political party'.

He called on the government to uphold the UN Security Council resolutions regarding non-proliferation. Vice President Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo reportedly told McCain during this visit that Burma’s nuclear programme has been halted. According to the state-run newspaper, the New Light Of Myanmar, the vice president told McCain, ‘Burma is in no position to build nuclear weapons and does not have enough economic strength to do so'.

McCain also called on the government to ‘cease any military cooperation with the government of North Korea’ and to uphold its obligation to international law.

He also referred to Aung San Suu Kyi’s impending trip outside of Rangoon as an opportunity for the government to show their commitment to change. Referring to violence marring Suu Kyi and her fellow NLD members’ political rallies around the country in the past, he said, ‘The new government’s ability and willingness to prevent a similar outcome this time will be an important test of their desire for change—for the protection of Aung San Suu Kyi should not be seen as special treatment for one famous citizen, but rather as a demand of human dignity to which every citizen of this country is entitled’.

Junta generals and former members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the SPDC regime’s ‘social welfare organization’ who now have positions in government, have been accused of orchestrating the attacks on the NLD entourage in Depayin in 2003. It is alleged that at least 70 NLD members were killed by USDA members in that anti-democratic episode.

McCain called on international countries to continue to push for a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) into human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in Burma, but stressed that the backing of a COI was not a call for ‘vengeance or retribution’. He said it has ‘everything to do with accountability and justice for the people of this country’.

McCain made reference to the Spring Revolution that has swept through the Arab world and warned, ‘The winds of change are now blowing, and they will not be confined to the Arab world. Governments that shun evolutionary reforms now will eventually face revolutionary change later. This choice may be deferred. It may be delayed. But it cannot be denied’.

He urged the current government, which reportedly spent  $30 billion to construct Naypyitaw, the new capital, to devote more attention to real development needs. ‘Let’s not lose sight of what would be the greatest contribution to the development of people here: a commitment by the new government to address this country’s dire challenges of health, poverty, education, and governance with a similar level of tenacity—and resources—that they are devoting to the construction of Naypyitaw.

‘If the new government shows itself willing to make a genuine commitment to real democratic reform and economic development, it will find a willing partner in the United States’, he said.

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