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POLICY UPDATE: How Should the U.S. Respond to Burma’s Upcoming Elections?




Votes queue to collect their ballot papers during a demonstration of how to vote in Naypyidaw. (Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images)

Votes queue to collect their ballot papers during a demonstration of how to vote in Naypyidaw. (Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images)

In advance of Burma’s elections on 7 November, the first in 20 years, the Asia Society has just released a Burma Task Force Report Update, which provides an overview of key developments that have unfolded since the publication of the report by the Society’s Task Force on U.S. Policy toward Burma/Myanmar in March 2010. 

The Update makes the following points:

(1) The upcoming elections will not be inclusive or fair. Burma’s military leaders have put into place a series of rules to ensure that the generals will retain power. Opposition leaders and ethnic minorities have been virtually shut out of the election process.

(2) The United States’ new engagement policy toward Burma, which moves away from previous efforts to isolate Burma’s ruling generals, has not yielded any significant results or progress. As such, the United States should remain vigilant with regard to the postelection government's attitudes toward democratization and human rights. At the same time, the United States should continue and even step up efforts to pursue an engagement process that is time-bound with specific benchmarks and aimed at promoting a better understanding of these objectives among Burma's future leaders. In doing so, the United States will position itself to respond effectively and flexibly to the twists and turns that a potential transition may take over time, with an eye toward pressing the new government to move in a positive direction.

(3) From this vantage point, the recommendations outlined in the Task Force’s report remain relevant and continue to offer a sensible way forward.

Read the Task Force Report Update and let us know below how you think the United States should respond to the upcoming elections in Burma.

The full report of the Task Force on U.S. Policy towards Burma/Myanmar is available at AsiaSociety.org/BurmaMyanmarReport.

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