|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement on Burma
Manila, Philippines, July 27, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. FOLEY: Thank you for gathering on short notice. Secretary Albright would like to make a statement on the situation in Burma and she’s not going to address other issues. I would just point out to you that you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions on a range of issues at her press conference at 7:30 p.m. But she’s going to make a statement on Burma and if you have any questions, one or two, on that statement, then she’ll entertain those. Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. I just wanted to make quite clear how we deplore the government of Burma’s refusal to allow members of the National League for Democracy, a legal political party, to travel freely in its own country. For the past three days, as the leader of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other senior party officials have been prevented from leaving Rangoon to meet with NLD members elected to the parliament in Burma’s last national election. These party members have also been detained to prevent them from traveling to Rangoon. We believe that freedom of movement is fundamental and that its denial can only increase the already dangerous state of tension in Burma. And we are gravely concerned about the health and safety of Aung San Suu Kyi and will hold the Burmese authorities directly responsible for insuring her health and welfare.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, have you found the same level of concern and outrage among other members here at this conference?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, I have to say interestingly enough there are a number of Asian members of ASEAN who have spoken about the problems in Burma, and I think that there is a general concern about the condition of Aung San Suu Kyi and her ability to move forward and try to get in touch with her own people and there have also been expressions of concern about the numbers of refugees that have been moving from Burma to Thailand. The Burmese representative here has just responded to the number of allegations and I think his response is quite typical of the problem of an authoritarian government that doesn’t get it; that blames the victim for the problem and their ability to disregard the fact that Aung Sun Suu Kyi is popularly elected and that the people she is trying to see are popularly elected speaks volumes about their lack of understanding about what it means to have some kind of a form of Constitutional government.
QUESTION: Is there any possibility of getting a formal statement from the meeting here about them?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don’t know what state that’s going to be in. Frankly, I’d be surprised because I think that of the things required is consensus. And I think that is not overall, but I do think that what has happened that I find very interesting in contrast to last year when I raised the problems of Burma also is that there is a sense that Burma is not moving in the right direction. I think there had been a feeling among the ASEAN members that if Burma became a part of ASEAN, it would have a more positive influence. My own assessment of what I’ve heard is that there is a sense of disappointment about the direction in which Burma is moving. And I was very encouraged -- because I have cared a great deal about this issue for some time -- about the number of countries that have joined in questioning what is going on in Burma in full sight of the Burmese foreign minister who in fact was forced to reply, though the answer certainly was anything but satisfactory.
QUESTION: How do you respond to the Japanese decision to go ahead with (Official Development Aid) to Burma despite a deterioration --
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the Japanese have always had a different approach in terms of their engagement, but I was interested that the Japanese representative also did speak about the problems in Burma.
Thank you all.
[End of Document]
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