Australia to Ease Sanctions Against Burma

Posted January 9th, 2012 at 8:20 am (UTC-5)
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Australia says it will scale back sanctions against Burma in response to the Southeast Asian nation's move toward democratic reforms.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, in a statement Monday, said Burmese tourism officials and ex-ministers from Burma's military junta who have left politics will be removed from Canberra's sanctions list. He said an arms embargo will remain in effect, along with sanctions against targeted individuals.

The sanctions easement is the latest in a series of incentives from democratic governments in Asia and the West aimed at encouraging the new, nominally civilian Burmese government to move forward with reforms. Momentum for easing sanctions began building after Burmese President Thein Sein announced an amnesty in October that freed about 200 of more than one thousand political prisoners jailed under decades of military rule.

A month later, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a landmark visit to the country and said Washington would consider lifting its sanctions if Burma's new government continues moving forward with reforms.

Two senior U.S. diplomats and a lawmaker are set to visit Burma this week to encourage the new government's reform efforts.

The visits by U.S. Congressman Joe Crowley and two State Department envoys comes on the heels of British Foreign Secretary William Hague's two-day visit to Burma last week.

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has in recent weeks urged the government show its commitment to democracy by releasing all political prisoners.

The Nobel laureate was released from house arrest last year, after spending much of the previous 20 years in detention. Her National League for Democracy party won an overwhelming victory in 1990 elections, but was stopped by the junta from taking power.

The new government, which took power last year, has cleared the NLD party to participate in by-elections set for April.