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Clinton Backs International Probe on Burma Human Rights

By Stephen Kaufman

Staff Writer

Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed U.S. support for an international inquiry into human rights abuses that have been committed by Burma’s ruling military junta, and pledged that the United States would stand with Asian leaders and individuals who are willing to take action to improve the lives of everyday citizens.

Clinton spoke October 28 in Hawaii at the beginning of a 13-day visit to the Asia-Pacific region at an event sponsored by the East-West Center. The center was established in 1960 by the U.S. Congress to promote better relations and understanding among the United States and countries in the Asia-Pacific region through study, research and dialogue.

The United States is committed to “seek accountability for the human rights violations that have occurred in Burma by working to establish an international commission of inquiry through close consultation with our friends, allies and other partners at the United Nations,” Clinton said.

The statement makes Clinton the first U.S. official to publicly call for a U.N. inquiry.

The secretary also said Burma’s planned November 7 election will be “deeply flawed” and added that “democracy is more than elections.”

“We will make clear to Burma’s leaders, old and new alike, they must break from the policies of the past,” she said.

Clinton also said the imprisonment of Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been repeatedly placed under arrest by the country’s military leaders since her party’s victory in the country’s 1988 elections, “must come to an end.”

In response to reports that the government is willing to release Suu Kyi after the country’s election, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley told reporters in Washington October 28 that the junta was engaging in “a craven manipulation,” since Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy leaders should already be free and allowed to participate fully in the electoral process.

“How convenient that they’re hinting that she might be released after an election that is unlikely to be fair, free or credible,” Crowley said.

“Burma knows what it has to do. It has to open up its political space … for Aung San Suu Kyi and others to participate fully in the politics of Burma. It has to release its political prisoners, all of them. And it has to have meaningful dialogue with all elements of Burmese society,” she said.

In her remarks, Secretary Clinton said she is saddened that Asia “remains the only place in the world where three iconic Nobel laureates — Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama and Liu Xiaobo ( ) are either in house arrest, in prison or in exile.”

The United States is aware that it cannot impose its values on others, Clinton said, but some values are universal and intrinsic to countries that are stable, peaceful and prosperous. The human rights issue is one of several on which the Obama administration is engaging Asian countries, she said, and the United States will have a comprehensive approach to the region. “We will listen, we will cooperate, and we will lead,” Clinton said.

“Asia can count on us to stand with leaders and people who take actions that will build a better future … [and] improve the lives of everyday citizens,” she said, calling on leaders to “not just grow an economy, but transform a country.”

Under the Obama administration, the United States has “quickened the pace and widened the scope” of its engagement with the Asia-Pacific region and believes the region “will see the most transformative economic growth on the planet” in the 21st century, Clinton said.

“Most of its cities will become global centers of commerce and culture, and as more people across the region gain access to education and opportunity, we will see the rise of the next generation of global leaders in business and science, technology, politics and the arts,” she said.

She cited increased U.S. engagement with regional institutions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), and said, “If consequential security, political and economic issues are being discussed and if they involve our interest, then we will seek a seat at the table.”

Clinton also announced that the U.S. Agency for International Development will be returning to the Pacific region in 2011 by opening an office in Fiji “with a fund of $21 million to support climate change mitigation.”

She said Asia wants the United States to continue as “an optimistic, engaged, open and creative partner in the region’s flourishing trade and financial interactions,” while the United States wants to expand its exports and investment in the region. Clinton said Americans are “getting our house in order” in the aftermath of the global financial crisis by increasing savings and reforming financial systems.

The United States wants to see a fair balance and is working both multilaterally and bilaterally with countries in the region to “advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on exports, more transparency and an overall commitment to fairness,” she said.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
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