US urges ASEAN to push for political progress in Myanmar
US ambassdor for ASEAN affairs, Scot Marciel, is pictured during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur
HANOI (AFP) — The United States on Wednesday called on Southeast Asian nations to push for “political progress” in military-ruled Myanmar.
Scot Marciel, the US ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) told reporters his country wanted the group’s members to “use whatever contacts and access they have in the country to encourage new thinking and reform and increase openness and political progress”.
The diplomat, speaking after an official visit to Hanoi, said he would go to Thailand for the opening of the ASEAN summit starting on Friday.
But he refused to elaborate on a policy review towards Myanmar US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had announced earlier.
Marciel told reporters Clinton said “that our approach to date, emphasising sanctions, hadn’t worked”.
“She also emphasised that the ASEAN approach of engagement hadn’t worked,” he said.
“So she said, given that we haven’t achieved that success, it’s logical and appropriate to review and look for new ideas to see if there is a way we can be more effective.”
A day after Obama took office a senior official in Yangon said Myanmar hoped the new president would change Washington’s tough policy towards its military regime and end the “misunderstandings” of the past.
Former US President George W. Bush’s administration strengthened decade-old sanctions against Myanmar while his wife Laura was an outspoken critic of the country’s ruling junta.
“Our goal vis-a-vis Myanmar or Burma remains to encourage release of political prisoners, dialogue between the government and the people in the opposition and overall progress so that the country stops going in a negative direction and moves in a more positive direction”, Marciel added.