Rights group urges US not to lift sanctions
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.