US diplomat Campbell notes 'dramatic' Burma change

Kurt Campbell, pictured in Tokyo on 6 October 2011 Mr Campbell said meaningful dialogue between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi was taking place

A senior US diplomat has described recent moves in Burma as "dramatic".

Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told an audience in the Thai capital, Bangkok, that the United States wanted to see further progress on issues such as political prisoners.

But he promised that concrete steps taken by the Burmese government would be matched by Washington.

His comments came almost a year after Burma's first elections in 20 years.

'Consequential dialogue'

There can no longer be any doubt that things are shifting in Burma. The question is how far any reforms might go and how permanent they might be.

Mr Campbell, a seasoned diplomat with long experience in Asia, chose his words carefully.

There are, he said, "dramatic developments under way" including what he called a "consequential dialogue" between the new civilian-led, military-backed government and the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But, Mr Campbell made clear, Washington still wants to see concrete progress on issues that have long been of concern - political prisoners, human rights abuses and continuing conflicts with armed ethnic minority groups.

The Burmese government has hinted that some prisoners will be released soon.

If any such amnesty were to include a substantial number of political detainees - and if it were welcomed by the moral authority of Aung San Suu Kyi - the United States and its European allies may feel they have to offer something substantial in return.

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