By Andrew Quinn
WASHINGTON Oct 17 The United States has
concluded its first set of human rights talks with Myanmar and
is confident it now has an "open channel" to discuss political
prisoners and other sensitive subjects as ties improve, the
State Department said on Wednesday.
Michael Posner, the State Department's top human rights
official, led the U.S. team at the talks in Naypyitaw, the
capital of Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.
The talks come as the Obama administration dismantles
longstanding sanctions to reward Myanmar's leaders for political
and economic reforms.
"The results of the dialogue were assessed to be very
positive and we look forward to continuing these discussions
with Burmese authorities," State Department spokeswoman Victoria
Nuland told a news briefing.
"We weren't sure whether the Burmese would be open to
addressing all of those issues, and they were," Nuland said.
"We are confident that we have now an open channel with the
government of Burma to discuss human rights and to continue to
work on bringing them where they want to be in terms of human
rights standards for their government."
The U.S. delegation also included Deputy Assistant Secretary
of Defense Vikram Singh and other U.S. military officials, a
signal that the Pentagon also is watching closely as Myanmar
begins moving out of the shadow of China, long its chief
The United States has seen ties warm rapidly with Myanmar
since a quasi-civilian government took office there in March
2011, ending five decades of military rule.
The new government has launched rapid reforms, including an
overhaul of the economy, an easing of censorship, the
legalization of trade unions and protests, and the freeing of
The United States has responded with diplomatic and economic
gestures, sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Myanmar
last year and easing sanctions.
Myanmar released its latest group of political prisoners
last month, just before Myanmar President Thein Sein and veteran
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited the United States
on separate trips.
"We have all spoken out about the need to get to zero in
terms of political prisoners and we're continuing to work with
the government of Burma on that," Nuland said.
The United States has also expressed concern over ongoing
fighting with ethnic minority groups and violence against ethnic
Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's western Rakhine state, as well as
the government's continued military ties with North Korea.
Activists say the United States has pressed Myanmar
consistently on human rights but warn that a surge in economic
and other ties could may push the issue down the priority list.
"The simple fact is that U.S. policy toward Burma is no
longer just about human rights," said John Sifton, Asia advocacy
director at Human Rights Watch.
"Now human rights is just another sector that is part of the
dialogue and there are other folks at the table, from the
military to the business community, who have their own wish
lists. As a result it is that much harder to focus the