On February 20, 2003, Burma’s military government extended a surprise invitation to the United States to enter a dialogue on the country’s political future in an apparent bid to stave off the threat of further sanctions.
The regime’s appeal follows strong hints by Lorne Craner, US assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy and Labor, a week earlier that Washington may impose additional sanctions against Burma due to lack of progress in ending its long political stalemate.
Justice for Human Rights in Burma (JHB) issued a statement cautiously welcoming the military government’s offer. “We view the offer as a step in the right direction” said Ko Win Moe of JHB. Richard Boucher, Statement Department spokesperson said the military government must first talk with National League for Democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
U Tin Maung Thaw of the Committee for Restoration of Democracy in Burma said his group believes the statement by the Burmese Military is intended to ward off possible further sanctions by the United States.
“The military government’s recent statement calling for ‘constructive dialogue’ with the United States is outrageous in the light of the junta’s refusal to enter into ‘constructive dialogue’ with the people of Burma,” said the Alternative ASEAN, a Southeast Asian human rights group.
“The military government must have a dialogue with its own people – not with the United States,” said Debbie Stothard of Alternative ASEAN.