US blames junta for election boycott

US blames junta for election boycott thumbnail
Suu Kyi's party will now be legally abolished (Reuters)
Published: 30 March 2010

The United States on Monday blamed Burma’s junta for the opposition’s decision to boycott upcoming elections, saying the regime missed an opportunity to move forward.

State department spokesman Philip Crowley said that the situation in Burma was “disappointing” but indicated that the United States would maintain its policy of engaging the longtime US pariah.

“This is a reflection of the unwillingness of the government in Burma to take the necessary steps to open up the political process,” Crowley told reporters.

“We think this is an opportunity lost in terms of Burma’s ability to demonstrate that it is willing to contemplate a different course of action, a different relationship with its own people,” he said.

The National League For Democracy, which swept the last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power, decided Monday to boycott the polls that are expected later in the year.

The move came after the junta introduced a law that would have forced the party to oust democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi as its leader.

The United States has sharply criticized the law, saying that it would make the upcoming election a mockery of democracy.

But Crowley indicated that the United States would continue dialogue despite its failure to persuade the junta to change course on the election.

“I don’t know that we expected necessarily everything to be resolved in one or two or three meetings,” Crowley said.

President Barack Obama’s administration, which has made reaching out to adversaries a signature policy, last year opened talks aimed at bringing Burma out of its isolation.

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the administration’s thinking had not changed.

“We will talk to Burma because we think it’s in our interest to talk to Burma,” the official said. “We recognize that other things we’ve done in the past had not been successful.”

The United States has maintained economic sanctions on Burma but said it would be willing to lift them eventually in return for progress.

Japan has called for the Group of Eight major industrial nations, who meet Monday in Canada, to send a strong signal to Burma on democratization.

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