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The US voiced confidence Wednesday it has opened up a channel to discuss the once taboo subject of human rights with Burma’s leaders after the first ever talks devoted to the issue.
A 22-strong delegation, led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael H. Posner, met in Naypyidaw “to discuss the full range of human rights issues affecting the country,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“The tone was very good… we were able to talk about a broad cross-section of human rights issues,” Nuland told journalists, after the talks ended.
“We are confident that we have now an open channel with the government of Burma to discuss human rights and to continue to work on bringing them where they want to be in terms of human rights standards for their government.”
A former pariah state, Burma was ruled by an iron-fisted junta for decades but a reformist government under former general President Thein Sein has freed political prisoners and introduced reforms since taking office last year.
The sweeping changes, however, have been overshadowed by recent deadly clashes between Buddhist Arakanese and Muslim Rohingya in western Burma.
Washington has called on the country to protect the rights of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group that has faced wide discrimination.
Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent most of the past two decades under house arrest, has been elected to parliament and paid a landmark visit to Washington last month.
But she too has faced criticism for failing to speak out more loudly in favor of the rights of the Rohingya.