The United States called Thursday on Myanmar to free prisoners and engage in dialogue to promote democracy, as the military-led country prepared to mark its independence on January 4.
The State Department congratulated Myanmar, also known as Burma, on its 63rd independence anniversary but hoped for “the day when Burma’s citizens will succeed in their peaceful efforts to exercise freely their universal human rights.”
“We are unwavering in our support for an independent, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Burma,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
“The United States remains prepared to improve bilateral relations, but looks to the Burmese government to meet the aspirations of its diverse peoples by freeing all political prisoners and engaging in an inclusive and meaningful dialogue with all its citizens in pursuit of genuine national reconciliation.”
The junta in November freed the leader of the democratic opposition, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who had spent most of the past two decades under house arrest after her party won elections but was not allowed to take power.
But her release came only after the junta held new elections, which were widely denounced by Western nations and by opposition groups as a sham.
Human rights groups say that Myanmar is still holding more than 2,100 political prisoners who are less prominent than Suu Kyi.
President Barack Obama’s administration in 2009 launched a dialogue with the regime aimed at ending Myanmar’s isolation. US officials have voiced disappointment at the results but said engagement is the best way forward.