WASHINGTON – The United States on Monday urged military-dominated Myanmar to embrace its offer of talks and improve human rights as a path toward international acceptance.
The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, said Washington's efforts in the past 18 months to engage Myanmar's government had failed.
He said despite the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the United States still is troubled by abuses of ethnic minorities, detention of political prisoners and a lack of democratic reform.
The most recent senior U.S. official to visit Yangon, Joseph Yun, said the rulers of Myanmar, also known as Burma, were wrong in thinking they would not gain from engaging the U.S.
"I really urge the Burmese government that there will be something in it. In the end, they have to join the international community," he said.
Both officials were speaking at the screening at the State Department of "Burma Soldier," a documentary of the life of Myo Myint, who served in Myanmar's military but later became an advocate for peace and democracy, for which he was jailed for 15 years.
President Barack Obama this month nominated a special envoy to Myanmar to push forward a two-track policy of offering dialogue with the regime while maintaining pressure through sanctions, including on trade and investment.
Despite its desire to build an international consensus on Myanmar, Washington's stance remains at odds with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member. ASEAN has called for sanctions to be lifted after Yangon staged elections in November that ushered in a new government said to be civilian but still dominated by the military.
The U.S. says it is looking for Myanmar to first release its more than 2,000 political prisoners and allow a political role of Suu Kyi, whose party won polls in 1990 but was barred from taking power.
Yun claimed there was growing support among ASEAN in pushing for reform. "There's a wide degree of recognition that what happens among them is not just a matter for a single country alone," he said.
He said India and China were less understanding of the U.S.'s firm stance on the need for human rights. Both are powerful neighbors of Myanmar that have expanded investment and retain strong ties with the military.
"In my assessment their strategic considerations come first, and thereafter other issues, and that would include human rights," Yun said.