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U.S. Criticizes Rangoon for Delay in Talks - 2002-11-22


James Kelly, United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Thursday gave a strongly worded speech in Washington criticizing the Burmese military government’s delaying tactics for substantive talks with the democratic opposition.

In his dinner speech at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies forum on Burma, Mr. Kelly said he had hoped to attend the forum with – in his words – “significant good news to share and even new acquaintances to make.” He continued: “But it was not to be. I think it fair to say that Burma represents a most frustrating challenge for American diplomacy.”

On Burma’s woeful economic situation, Mr. Kelly said: “Now its broken economy has trouble feeding itself. This is a man-made, not a natural phenomenon, and Burma’s leaders should hang their heads in shame.”

The US official also voiced his assessment of the general situation in Burma: “The picture presented by events in Burma over the past year is decidedly mixed and it is a measure of how bad things are in Burma that even a mixed record represents some progress, but progress exceeded by disappointment.”

Mr. Kelly praised the military government for allowing democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to travel around the country. However, he blamed the ruling State Peace and Development Council for its treatment of dissidents and handling of claims that its troops were involved in mass rapes.

The Assistant Secretary of State pointed out the paradox of the ruling military: “It is ironic that a regime that purports to exist for the purpose of ensuring the security of the nation has weakened Burma and aggravated the many afflictions endured by its people.”

He also said the military government’s mismanagement of the economy has created extreme hardships for the people of Burma and an increased threat of instability and unrest.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and State Department.

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