Rights group urges US not to lift sanc­tions

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NICK BAKER n.baker@mm­times.com

Hu­man Rights Watch im­plored the United States to keep its Myan­mar sanc­tions in place amid re­ports that the puni­tive eco­nomic mea­sures could be lifted when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi vis­its Washington this month.

HU­MAN Rights Watch has urged the United States to re­con­sider any plans to lift re­main­ing sanc­tions against Myan­mar as re­ports emerged that this could hap­pen as early as next week.

HRW re­leased a state­ment say­ing the cur­rent sanc­tions regime was vi­tal to “de­ter the Burmese mil­i­tary from de­rail­ing demo­cratic re­forms”.

The state­ment came as Reuters re­ported on Septem­ber 2 that US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was con­sid­er­ing ad­di­tional sanc­tions re­lief af­ter con­sul­ta­tions be­tween his ad­min­is­tra­tion and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The news wire said an an­nounce­ment could hap­pen as the state coun­sel­lor vis­its Mr Obama in Washington, DC, on Septem­ber 14-15.

The US em­bassy in Yan­gon was un­able to pro­vide com­ment on the mat­ter.

Hu­man Rights Watch’s Asia ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor, John Sifton, said the present sanc­tions “are fo­cused on the Burmese gen­er­als and their cronies in or­der to en­cour­age demo­cratic re­forms”.

“The sanc­tions are cru­cial for press­ing the mil­i­tary to end rights abuses and trans­fer power to a fully civil­ian gov­ern­ment. They shouldn’t be fully lifted un­til the demo­cratic tran­si­tion is ir­re­versible.

“Now that real progress has been made, it’s cru­cial to keep up the pres­sure un­til those goals have been achieved,” Mr Sifton said.

A se­ries of US sanc­tions have been dropped or amended in re­cent years, with re­main­ing mea­sures in­clud­ing re­stric­tions on busi­ness with en­ter­prises tied to the mil­i­tary, along with bans on im­ports of jade and other gem­stones. The US Trea­sury De­part­ment also main­tains a list of “spe­cially des­ig­nated na­tion­als” with whom Amer­i­cans can­not do busi­ness.

On his visit in May, US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry seemed to sug­gest that all re­main­ing sanc­tions would not be lifted with­out changes to Myan­mar 2008 con­sti­tu­tion.

“The key to the lift­ing of the sanc­tions is re­ally the progress that is made within Myan­mar in con­tin­u­ing to move down the road of democrati­sa­tion … It’s very dif­fi­cult to com­plete that jour­ney – in fact, im­pos­si­ble to com­plete that jour­ney – with the cur­rent con­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

At a joint press con­fer­ence with Mr Kerry, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that “if we [Myan­mar] are go­ing along the right path, all sanc­tions should be lifted in good time”.

She was a sup­porter of sanc­tions as a mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion un­der the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and Devel­op­ment Party’s gov­ern­ment, which ceded power to her ad­min­is­tra­tion in late March.

Last month, a USDP MP sub­mit­ted a pro­posal call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to ac­tively lobby for lift­ing re­main­ing US sanc­tions. The mo­tion did not pass.

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