- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has decided to support the creation of a United Nations commission to look into purported crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

The White House said in a statement Wednesday that it believes the commission could advance the cause of human rights in Burma, officially known as Myanmar, by “addressing issues of accountability for responsible senior members of the Burmese regime.”

By supporting the U.N. inquiry, the Obama administration is committing itself to backing an investigation of the military junta led since 1992 by Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

Gen. Than Shwe’s loyalists overturned election results in 1990 that favored the political party of Aung San Suu Kyi. Mrs. Suu Kyi, who was named a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, remains under house arrest.

Burma is holding elections Nov. 7 — the first in two decades — but critics say they are a sham designed to perpetuate the military’s commanding role in politics.

Aung Din, executive director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma, called the Obama administration’s move “the right and timely action.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Mr. Aung Din said members of the junta “are expecting to delete their dirty crimes by putting a sham constitution into effect through a sham election. This is a clear message that the United States will not recognize their showcase election and will take them accountable for their horrible abuses against their own citizens.”

The administration’s decision was first reported by The Washington Post. An article on the newspaper’s website Wednesday quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying the administration also is considering tightening financial sanctions against the Burmese regime to perhaps force it to open its political system and free thousands of political prisoners.

The Obama administration entered office with a desire to shift course on Burma.

Pro-democracy and human rights groups have urged the U.N. Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Burma’s military regime and establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity.

They fear a humanitarian crisis may develop along the border with Thailand, where the Burmese military has been fighting ethnic Karens, pushing thousands of refugees across the border. Karen National Union fighters have been battling for half a century for greater autonomy from Myanmar’s central government.

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