UN Envoy Urges Lifting of Burma Sanctions

Posted February 24th, 2012 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The top United Nations envoy for Burma has urged the international community to lift sanctions imposed on that country's previous military government.

Vijay Nambiar, who visited Burma earlier this month, says “dramatic changes” are happening in the country as it transitions towards democracy. But he said April 1 parliamentary elections will be an important test for the civilian government which came to power a little less than a year ago.

“For these elections to be credible, they have to be free and fair, and to be seen by all to be so. This includes ensuring a level playing field for all parties to compete openly and addressing complaints swiftly and transparently – this point was mentioned by me to most of my interlocutors dealing with the elections. The by-election will be a critical test of the government's commitment to broaden and enhance the credibility of the democratic process in the country.”

Nambiar cited progress in the country's transition from military dictatorship to democracy, including the registration of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party and the registration of the party's leader Aung San Suu Kyi as a candidate in the April 1 election. He also commended the government for releasing a significant number of political prisoners. But he cautioned Burma's new leaders must consolidate gains to bring real reform.

Nambiar said the new government needs to satisfy the socio-economic needs of its people and he therefore urged the international community to lift economic and financial sanctions that were imposed on the former leadership for its human rights abuses and other repressive measures.

“The international community, on its part, must respond robustly to the needs of Myanmar's (Burma's) people, including by lifting the current restrictions imposed against the country and on U.N. programs. Now is the time to build conditions for sustaining the reform for the betterment of the people of this country.”

Nambiar welcomed the Burmese government's engagement with the United Nations on several fronts, including on organizing the country's first census since 1983.

Nambiar, who is the Secretary-General's Special Advisor, said the United Nations had not been asked nor had it offered any technical assistance for the upcoming elections. But he did note that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, had offered to send observers.

ASEAN's Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said Friday that Burma's April 1 poll will be a crucial test of Burma's progress toward democracy, which he said requires independent election monitors outside the 10-nation group which includes Burma and its neighbors.