EU sanctions only 'a symbol of punishment'

Apr 27, 2009 (DVB), The European Union's plans to continue sanctions against Burma seem more like a symbol of punishment rather than a political solution, said an exiled Burmese political organization.

Earlier today the EU announced it would be continuing with its policy of sanctions against Burma in light of the ruling junta's failure to change track on its human rights record.

The move was criticized by exiled Burmese political party, the National League for Democracy (Liberated Areas).

"Sanctions are not the pressure or the solution to change the political diversity or political dynamics of Burma," said Nyo Ohn Myint, chairman of the NLD-LA Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Sanctions are a notion of how [the EU] is unhappy with the regime."

Planned sanctions are to include an arms embargo, travel bans for senior officials and the freezing of Burmese assets in Europe.

In case of "genuine progress" the EU would be ready to hold high level talks and loosen sanctions.

"The problem is, what do you call a genuine progress?" said Burmese political analyst, Aung Naing Oo.

"To me the EU will continue a policy that has been proven ineffective. Sanctions and isolation have not worked."

Instead, he said, a policy of greater engagement with the regime rather than just sanctions would likely prove more effective.

"[Sanctions] are just keeping the military isolated," he said. "I'm not saying the situation is easy to resolve though."

The announcement comes at a time when the United States, who historically has led the international community on sanctions, appears to be reconsidering its stance.

In February, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the path the US had taken on Burma had failed to influence the military government.

Then came a rare meeting in March between a US official and senior government officials in the Burmese capital, although the US have so far publicly denied there will be a change in sanctions policy.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith

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