June 4, 2009 (DVB), The United States has said it will not impose its own measures to solve Burma's problems but that the military government should "promote the exchange of information" and empower its own people.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Phillip Crowley, said that Burma's problems, with reference to the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, "are fundamental issues of importance".
"They’re really about how nations will govern themselves in the 21st century. It’s not for the United States to impose these solutions on countries such as Burma," he said.
The US has long been the fiercest critic of the Burmese government, and holds the toughest sanctions against the military regime, who are notoriously fearful of foreign interference and see sanctions as an attempt by the West to sap power from its generals.
The trial of Suu Kyi seems to have dashed any signs of a change in tack by the new Obama administration, who had recently suggested the sanctions policy might be softened in favour of greater engagement in light of the lack of its tangible success.
The new US President has promised to "reach out a hand" to countries that were shunned by the previous Bush administration.
"We are going to engage the world, and we’re willing to engage, any nation of the world in pursuit of our national interest," said Crowley, adding that the Burmese junta should "empower [its] people".
"You can’t be fearful of your people. You should find ways to promote the exchange of information, not find ways to hide it or to restrict it," he said.
Burmese political analyst Aung Thu Nyein said however that the US could go further with engagement.
"They [the US] are just using sanctions and pressure as a tool to make change in Burma [but] I think they should buy some room for engagement – they have to talk more with the generals.
"At this moment the military regime seems really insecure and they don't want to move and change.
"They propose the 2010 elections as a controlled change. They want to make some changes but they want to control the process," he said.
Elections have been tentatively scheduled for March next year. Many observers see the trial of Suu Kyi as a pretext to keep her in detention beyond the elections.
Reporting by Francis Wade