POLITICS: U.S. Policy Shift on Burma Gets Mixed Reactions By Larry Jagan

BANGKOK, Sep 25 (IPS) – The shift in the United States policy towards Burma has been met with mixed reactions, with few believing it will have an impact. But the South-east Asian state’s detained opposition leader has already endorsed Washington’s move to start talks with the reclusive regime.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that direct engagement is good,” said her lawyer and spokesman for her party, the National League for Democracy, Nyan Win. “She accepts it, but she says that engagement must be with both sides,” he told local journalists in Rangoon.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed Washington’s change in policy towards the junta, and that now the U.S. government would pursue a policy of engagement as well as sanctions to help bring democratic change to Burma.

“Engagement versus sanctions is a false choice in our opinion,” she announced Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. “So, going forward we will be employing both of these tools … to help achieve democratic reform, we will be engaging directly with the Burmese authorities.”

“We want credible, democratic reform, a government that responds to the needs of the Burmese people, the immediate, unconditional release of political prisoners … (and) serious dialogue with the opposition and minority ethnic groups,” Clinton said.

The pro-democracy movement abroad reacted cautiously. “We must warily welcome it,” said a spokesman for the exiled democratic opposition based in Thailand, Zin Linn. “We cannot expect much, but if it helps get Aung San Suu Kyi released, then it is certainly a very good move.”

Inside Burma, most people are more sceptical. “Nothing can budge them (the military junta), they don’t listen to anyone, and they don’t care about anything other than themselves,” a small stall holder in Rangoon, told Inter Press Service.

Most people don’t think it will work, said a Burmese journalist on condition of anonymity. “It’s an OK approach, but it’s too late – what can be done now with elections planned next year? There’s not enough time to change the generals’ minds,” he said. BANGKOK, Sep 25 (IPS) – The shift in the United States policy towards Burma has been met with mixed reactions, with few believing it will have an impact. But the South-east Asian state’s detained opposition leader has already endorsed Washington’s move to start talks with the reclusive regime.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that direct engagement is good,” said her lawyer and spokesman for her party, the National League for Democracy, Nyan Win. “She accepts it, but she says that engagement must be with both sides,” he told local journalists in Rangoon.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed Washington’s change in policy towards the junta, and that now the U.S. government would pursue a policy of engagement as well as sanctions to help bring democratic change to Burma.

“Engagement versus sanctions is a false choice in our opinion,” she announced Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. “So, going forward we will be employing both of these tools … to help achieve democratic reform, we will be engaging directly with the Burmese authorities.”

“We want credible, democratic reform, a government that responds to the needs of the Burmese people, the immediate, unconditional release of political prisoners … (and) serious dialogue with the opposition and minority ethnic groups,” Clinton said.

The pro-democracy movement abroad reacted cautiously. “We must warily welcome it,” said a spokesman for the exiled democratic opposition based in Thailand, Zin Linn. “We cannot expect much, but if it helps get Aung San Suu Kyi released, then it is certainly a very good move.”

Inside Burma, most people are more sceptical. “Nothing can budge them (the military junta), they don’t listen to anyone, and they don’t care about anything other than themselves,” a small stall holder in Rangoon, told Inter Press Service.

Most people don’t think it will work, said a Burmese journalist on condition of anonymity. “It’s an OK approach, but it’s too late – what can be done now with elections planned next year? There’s not enough time to change the generals’ minds,” he said.

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