Burma immune to 'soft' US approach

Sept 30, 2009 (DVB), Burma's ruling junta may be immune to the 'soft' approach of engagement announced by the United States last week, according to a senior Burmese opposition party member.

The new US approach mirrors policy advocated by Burma's regional neighbours, according to National League for Democracy (NLD) party member, Win Tin.

"I don't think [Burma's] situation could be handled by this soft diplomacy method," he said.

"As we have experienced before, the junta plays games, makes lies, breaks promises and then says whatever it wants to say through state-run newspapers."

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced last week that Washington will look to engage directly with the Burmese government, whilst maintaining sanctions, after years of a failed isolationist policy.

Win Tin said however that the US was "stepping onto the same path" as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, who have shunned sanctions in favour of engagement.

"What has ASEAN managed to achieve?" he said. "There is nothing to show that the engagement trend initiated by the [former Singaporean prime minister] Lee Kuan Yew found success."

The spokesperson for the NLD, Nyan Win, said that any engagement with Burma must include opposition groups in the country.

"The interaction must be started locally," he said. "Internal relations also play an important role.

"International engagement without engagement within the country would not be very effective."

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon came under fire during a trip to Burma in July after only being allowed to meet with the NLD for two minutes, despite holding a number of meetings with government officials.

Win Tin said that the US must fall into the same trap where every aspect of engagement is dictated by the government.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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