As Burma's Meets, US Should Press Engagement

“Burma’s parliament will meet for the first time in 22 years on Jan. 31. Senior General Than Shwe has appointed nearly 400 military officers to fill the 25 percent of seats reserved for the military in the country's national, state and regional legislatures,” says Suzanne DiMaggio, Asia Society’s Vice President for Global Policy Programs. “According to the 2008 constitution, Burma's leaders are required to form a new government by Feb. 5 (three months after the election was held). It is widely assumed that Than Shwe will appoint himself to fill the role of president, with Tin Aung Myint Oo as his vice president. A second vice president is expected to be named. It is clear that the generals who have been recycled into political life will remain at the helm of government for at least one or two five-year terms. This does not augur well for prospects that the newly elected (and appointed) parliament will bring immediate or near-term political reform to Burma. In fact, it may be years, if not decades, before the real significance of this transition becomes apparent. Against this backdrop, the United States should remain vigilant with regard to the postelection government’s attitudes toward democratization, national reconciliation, and human rights and, at the same time, continue and even step up efforts to pursue an engagement process aimed at promoting a better understanding of these objectives among Burma’s future leaders.”

Suzanne, who is based in New York, is Director of the Asia Society’s Task Force on U.S. Policy toward Burma/Myanmar. To arrange an interview, contact the Asia Society communications department at 212-327-9271 or