Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Citing reports that Burma’s military regime has obtained North Korean missile technology and nuclear programme assistance, three US Republican senators sponsored a resolution last Friday calling on President Obama’s administration to investigate the ‘growing relationship between the governments of Burma and North Korea’.
The April 8 resolution was sponsored by Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who is a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most senior members of his party in Washington, and was cosponsored by Republican senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Inhofe.
It called on the Obama administration to make public ‘an unclassified report as to the volume of ships and planes from North Korea visiting Burma, via China and elsewhere, in 2009, 2010, and through March 2011’.
Reports of Burmese-North Korean cooperation gained credibility last year following the Burmese exile broadcaster Democratic Voice of Burma’s special report featuring the testimony of an escaped Burmese military scientist, Major Sai Thein Win. The defector’s allegations were further strengthened by the disclosure of top secret US diplomatic cables which detailed American suspicions that Burma is working to develop both rocket and nuclear programs with the assistance of North Korea. The cables were disclosed by Wikileaks and the Guardian newspaper at the end of 2010.
Lugar’s Burma resolution calls on President Obama to ‘provide leadership by calling for an international investigation into allegations of international crimes against civilians in Burma, including ethnic minorities, by the Government of Burma’ and the release of all political prisoners.
While the US government has endorsed the idea of such an inquiry, the US State Department has not been active in encouraging other nations around the world to do so. The commission of inquiry was first proposed in March last year by Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma.
Burma democracy activists have complained that lack of American interest in the commission of inquiry was one of the reasons that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon failed to mention the potential for an inquiry in his report on the situation of human rights in Burma issued to the UN General Assembly last September.
The Lugar resolution also noted that two years into his four year term, President Obama is still yet to appoint a Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma as mandated under the 2008 JADE Act. According to recent press reports, Obama will soon appoint the current principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs Derek Mitchell.
At a press conference on Friday afternoon in Washington, Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told reporters that the Obama administration is still concerned by the situation in Burma.
Posner said that Burmese democracy activist ‘Aung San Suu Kyi is now free, but it's a limited freedom, and she doesn't have the ability or her party to operate in any sense in a way that allows her to really oppose what the government's doing’.
Posner also criticized Burma’s new military-dominated legislature saying, ‘We now have a new parliament in place, but it is not clear that it is going to make any difference in terms of opening up the space’.