US Announces Limited Easing of Sanctions Against Burma

Posted February 7th, 2012 at 12:15 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The United States has eased one of its many sanctions against Burma in response to democratic reforms made by the country's military-backed government.

The State Department said late Monday it is lifting opposition to assessments of Burma by international financial institutions. The move will make it easier for the country to secure help from organizations such as the World Bank or the IMF.

Washington said it is encouraged by Burma's recent democratic reforms, including its decision to allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to run in upcoming elections.

Burma's Election Commission on Monday granted official approval to the Nobel Laureate's candidacy for the April parliamentary bi-election.

The State Department also praised Burma for releasing political prisoners, implementing broader civil liberties and holding peace talks with ethnic rebel groups.

But U.S. officials insist that Burma must continue its reforms before other sanctions are lifted. The economic, political and trade sanctions have been in place for decades because of human rights abuses by the country's former military government, which stepped down last March.

The April elections is seen as a key test of whether the country's new military-backed civilian government can continue its path toward democracy.

On Sunday, A United Nations human rights envoy said Burma is considering allowing foreign observers to monitor the April elections. Tomas Ojea Quintana lauded the recent reforms but warned of “a risk of backtracking on the progress achieved thus far.” He said the elections are a “key test” of the regimes commitment to reform.

The by-election is being held to fill 48 parliamentary seats vacated by lawmakers who were appointed to the Cabinet and other posts. Even if the NLD sweeps the polls, it will have minimal power. The 440-seat lower house of Parliament is heavily weighted with military appointees and allies of the former military junta.